Terri (Jacob Wysocki) has been dealt a rough hand. A heavy-set teenager with more than a touch of social anxiety, Terri finds school to be a hellhole where he goes unnoticed (when he’s lucky). His home life is not much better. He doesn’t know where either of his parents are and he lives with his uncle (Creed Batton) who is slipping further and further into dementia. When he gets in trouble for firing back at one of his many mockers, the school’s principal, Mr. Fitzgerald (John C. Reilly), sees a kid who desperately needs a friend. He sets up weekly meetings with Terri and attempts to take the boy under his wing. But the many years of loneliness have taken a toll on Terri and despite the influence of Mr. Fitzgerald, transitioning into a fully functioning member of high school society proves more difficult than originally thought.
There is serious promise to be found within Terri. Up-and-coming director Azazel Jacobs has a firm handle on his subject matter and he works hard to show Terri for the good hearted boy that he is. It is a very simple and understated film (more on this in a minute) as Jacobs lets his protagonist move at his own pace. You can see why so many respected critics have identified Jacobs as a name to watch in the future. Wysocki himself gives an honest performance and displays solid chops for a kid who has almost no acting experience. He makes it easy to identify with Terri and that brings about a sense of natural empathy that is essential to the film’s success. Likewise, Reilly is a perfect choice for the would-be-cool principal who tries extremely hard to be relevant and accessible to his students but can’t quite make it work. The relationship between Terri and Fitzgerald is poignant and heartfelt and without question their shared scenes are the best of the film.