Wesley R. Ball’s review published on Letterboxd:
My dearest mother,
I have seen Mike Mills' 20th Century Women three times now, and only now upon this third viewing with you have I been able to fully realize what this film meant for me. I know you didn't really like it much, it was too meandering without any straightforward meaning, which I can understand; and I'm sorry if I had wasted your time by having you watch this with me. Regardless, I find this film to be a touching piece to watch with a mother, despite a few awkward moments that I was relieved to be able to laugh with you on. It's a beautiful generational clash that displays a mother trying to understand the modern culture she finds herself living in now- trying to understand what makes her son so in tune with the rest of the current society. It's hard for a child to comprehend that their parents were once exactly like them, and for years I never really thought of realizing that fact. It was obviously a given in my mind, but it never fully occurred to me just how similar you and I probably were at the same points in our lives.
I realize that you were young once. You had desires and needs and fantasies just as any other person would have. You lived, loved, laughed, learned. I mean, obviously you still are, but there was a youthful freedom that you had back then that I experience now and probably have some difficulty keeping under control. When I first realized the limitlessness of the freedom of adulthood, I was in college in Florida, becoming fully aware for the first time in my life that I was free to make each and every decision of my own without the thought of what you explicitly want me to do. It was a completely new experience for me, and one that I probably took too liberally on more than one occasion.
I know I was never really the model rebellious type growing up. I didn't smoke or drink, didn't do drugs or have premarital sex or any of those kinds of things. I've only had a taste of alcohol on three separate occasions, and each time ended with me in absolute disgust. It wasn't until recently that I began, let's say, "revolting" against everything. Maybe I fell into a bit of a bad crowd. Fell off the beaten path. I lost sight of who I was and who I was really meant to be in a series of confusing moments all snowballing from that one fateful traumatizing day three years ago. You know the one I'm talking about. But despite all my wrongdoing, I know that you were more than likely in a similar position at one point in your life. "I was young once," as every other parent would tell their child. Most parents might berate their children for going against the grain of everything that they thought they had taught them. Not you. Not dad. You were both always there for me, whether I realized it or not. You are the mother that every other child wishes they could have and, in spite of our frequent butting of heads in the past, I would never have wished for anyone else to be my own.
I guess what I'm trying to tell you through this letter disguised as a movie review, is thank you. Thank you for having me. For being there for me through every painful moment I had in my life. Every time I got sick. Every surgery I had. Every heartbreak I experienced. Every triumph or failure in my life. Every loss, every regret, every major life milestone. Thank you for loving me with every fiber of your being, as I will try my utmost in the future to love you with every fiber of my own as I should. Maybe it seems a little shallow to feel like I bond with you over the movies we've watched recently, but I've felt better around you than I have in years in the recent weeks. You recognize and understand- or at least try to, anyway- my love for cinema, and I love how you support my own passion for writing on the films I watch and just about everything else. Things have changed for me in the past two months for the better, and I want you to know that now more than ever I cherish every single waking moment I spend with you, regardless of whether or not we're watching a movie together or some reality show or just sitting around the living room, talking about the mundanities of our everyday lives. I thank God to have you in my life. He couldn't have given me anyone better to grow up with.
Wesley Ross Ball