Deanie Donford (Patty McCormack) is tired of her parents trying to control her life. Dewey Norson (Kevin Coughlin) is a small-town high school senior afraid to disappoint his parents. Shelly Allen (Brooke Bundy) is the daughter of a busy ad executive, neglected by her father in favor of his work.
Each of these teens decides to leave home, running away to Chicago, leaving school and their families behind in attempt to escape their problems. But instead of escaping their problems, they find new ones… perhaps even worse than before.
The Young Runaways was directed by Arthur Dreifuss and written by Orville H. Hampton.
The film opens with Deanie getting into an argument with her mother over her rumored promiscuity. The film is quite moralistic, though it also does acknowledge the issues caused by the parents, and the way of life that these teens are trying to escape.
With its morals, The Young Runaways isn’t as much of an exploitation flick as you’d expect from the title and poster. It shows both the lives of the teens as they try to make their way in Chicago, and their parents’ frantic searches for them. Issues like teen pregnancy and prostitution are discussed, but not in an explicit fashion. It exists somewhere between exploitation and after school special.
The performances aren’t great, and a stronger cast probably would have zapped a bit of the corn from the film’s wilder moments.
I did quite like Brooke Bundy in her role, though. She was the most believable of the three teens. There’s also an early appearance by Richard Dreyfuss as Terry, a delinquent acquaintance of Dewey.
There’s a lot about the film that seems over-the-top, but it’s capturing a very distinct time, problem, and feeling. That desperation to escape the repression of suburban life, and the social norms of the previous generation. Each of the three teens leaves home for a different reason, but all are somehow connected to their disillusionment and lack of hope for the future.
I wouldn’t recommend The Young Runaways too highly, but it did hold my interest. Part of capturing the time involves incorporating groovy music and funky late ’60s fashions, which are a fun time capsule. So if the cautionary tale doesn’t grab you, it may be somewhat worth watching for the aesthetics!