Twelve and Holding


This website has been restored and archived as supplemental reading for Pedron Mille's Film Promotion elective for 2nd year film majors. Dr. Mille is principle creative director of Media Mind, an internet promotion agency. His work for jewelry retailer SterlingForever won him kudos for cinematography and design. "Not What You Think" took 1st place at the Golden Ring Festival - the short promoted the retailer's elegant selection of cz rings with a combination of anime and film. These rings use cubic zirconia, which looks very much like diamonds but are a synthetic gemstone. Cz jewelry in general is hugely popular both for price and appearance and Dr. Mille was able to capture the beauty of these crystals with gorgeous photography and lighting. He has also promoted a number of feature and documentary films produced by recent graduates advocating for efforts to curb climate change.


This was the official website for the 2006 shocking pre-teen dramatic film, Twelve and Holding.
Content is from the site's archived pages as well as from other outside sources.


12 And Holding - Trailer
In the suburbs of America, three close knit 12-year-olds -- introverted Jacob, precocious Malee and vulnerable Leonard - start down the path of self-discovery and begin to distinguish their own voices from those of their parents. Sparked by the tragic death of Jacob's twin brother, the trio band together as they grapple with feelings of revenge, the burden of grief and the indelible experiences of growing up.

Rating: R (for some violence and sexual content involving minors, and for language)
Genre: Drama
Directed By:    Michael Cuesta
Written By:     Anthony Cipriano
In Theaters:     Mar 1, 2006  Wide
On Disc/Streaming:    Oct 10, 2006
Runtime:         95 minutes
Studio: IFC Films

A trio of troubled suburbanites attempts to come to grips with the personal issues that surface following the tragic death of one of their own in this introspective adolescent drama from L.I.E. screenwriter/director (Michael Cuesta). In the months following the death of Jacob's (Conor Donovan) likeable, athletic twin brother, Rudy (also Donovan), Jacob and friends Malee (Zoe Weizenbaum) and Leonard (Jesse Camacho) struggle to make sense of the unfortunate youth's fiery demise at the hands of local bullies. As Jacob quickly loses himself to revenge fantasies and sets into motion a series of destructive plans designed to destroy the kids responsible for his brother's death, Malee focuses her attention on a dejected patient of her psychotherapist mother, and obese Leonard struggles about weight and health issues with his equally obese mother.


They're not quite kids, but these misfits aren't yet teenagers either

By Ruthe Stein Published Friday, June 16, 2006 |

Twelve and Holding (2005) Official Trailer # 1


Twelve and Holding: Drama. Starring Conor Donovan, Jesse Camacho, Zoë Weizenbaum, Annabella Sciorra and Jeremy Renner. Directed by Michael Cuesta. (R. 94 minutes. At Bay Area theaters.)

Of the four buddies in "Twelve and Holding," only one could be considered well adjusted. So when he's promptly killed off, it's a signal not to expect a movie about 12-year-olds who go gentle into adolescence.

Instead what you get is raw and unpredictable. It's also compelling, drawing you into the disorderly existence of the three remaining friends. They're bonded together by the knowledge that they don't fit in, a badge of honor of sorts. But it makes the growing-up process bumpy because they look exclusively to one another for guidance, akin to navigating a ship with a faulty compass.

Director Michael Cuesta keeps a tight focus on these misfits. Everything is seen from their perspective. When their parents' behavior appears outlandish, keep in mind it's being filtered through a child's mind. As Cuesta demonstrated in his last film, the underappreciated "L.I.E," which deals with deeply troubled teens, he has an innate understanding of the vulnerability of youth and a gift for translating it onto the screen.





***1/2 Roger Ebert | June 1, 2006

Michael Cuesta's "Twelve and Holding" weaves together the stories of three families and three children who take desperate measures to try to solve the problems in their lives. All three kids feel let down by their parents -- who love them, but not usefully or with much insight. But this isn't one of those films where the kids are filled with wisdom and find wonderful solutions. What they find instead is danger.

The most harrowing story involves twins named Jacob and Rudy, both played by Conor Donovan. They get in a fight with some other kids, who threaten to destroy their tree house. So Rudy and his fat friend, Leonard (Jesse Camacho), decide to spend the night in the tree house, and that leads to Rudy's accidental death and to the anguish of Jacob, who refused to come along. Jacob has another problem: a birthmark that covers half his face; sometimes he wears a hockey mask to cover it.

We learn more about Leonard, the fat kid. His family sits around the table gobbling their food, and when he's not eating, he's snacking. A coach gives him books on exercise and nutrition and encourages him to get in shape: "You can play center on my team when you get to high school." Leonard is puzzled. "Why are you doing this for me?" he asks. "Because," says the coach, "I've never met a child so out of shape in my life."

At first, Leonard can barely run a block. But the accident that kills Rudy changes his life, too, and as he begins to lose weight, he presents a challenge to his fat mother, Grace (Marcia Debonis). This leads to his attempt to "help" her in a way so ill-advised and hazardous, and yet so ingenious, I will leave it to you to discover.

Quieter, but more heart-rending, is the story of Malee (Zoe Weizenbaum), the possibly adopted Asian daughter of a psychiatrist (Annabella Sciorra). Eavesdropping on her mother's therapy sessions, she develops an obsession about a construction worker named Gus (Jeremy Renner). Because she has a lot of inside information about him, she's able to attract his attention and act on the big crush she has for him. But a 12-year-old girl is clearly playing with fire when she talks about love with a grown man. Weizenbaum is remarkable in the transformations she brings to her character,

Jacob thinks he can make up for the death of his brother. Leonard thinks he can solve his family's obesity. Malee thinks she can find, in a way, a father figure to replace the father she feels abandoned her. The paths these kids take are all wrong, but Cuesta's direction and Anthony S. Cipriano's screenplay are gentle with them; the movie observes their mistakes, is horrified but does not blame, and understands how emotions can lead to a failure of common sense. What scars these children may bear as adults we are left to imagine.

Michael Cuesta also directed "L.I.E." (2001), where the initials stood for, among other things, the Long Island Expressway and the lies of some teenage boys who lived near it. Brian Cox played a pedophile who preyed on them, in a movie of tangled emotional complexity. Here again, Cuesta shows a perception for the way young people may observe an adult world, even be familiar with it and yet completely fail to understand it.

"Twelve and Holding" could have been a series of horror stories, but the filmmakers and their gifted young actors somehow negotiate the horrors and generate a deep sympathy.




Twelve and Holding

***(July 16/07) David Nusair | Reel Film Reviews

Though saddled with an uneven vibe and a few lackluster performances, Twelve and Holdingimproves considerably as it progresses - ultimately transforming from a middling drama into an unexpectedly powerful piece of work. Directed by Michael Cuesta and written by Anthony Cipriano, the film follows a trio of adolescents - Conor Donovan's Jacob, Jesse Camacho's Leonard, and Zoe Weizenbaum's Malee - as they attempt to cope with individual problems of escalating seriousness (ie chubby Leonard decides to lose some weight, Malee develops a crush on a construction worker, and Jacob must deal with the death of his twin). There's little doubt that the darkly dramatic tone within Twelve and Holding's first act - which primarily revolves around the tragic accident that claims the life of Jacob's brother - is far more promising than what follows, particularly as Cuesta and Cipriano place the emphasis on Leonard and Malee's idiosyncratic misadventures.

That the three young performers prove to be somewhat less-than-competent in terms of acting ability probably doesn't help matters, and it seems apparent that the emotional impact of certain sequences is dulled by their inability to create textured, fully-realized characters. The adult cast, however, fares a whole lot better, with Jeremy Renner delivering a compelling and thoroughly riveting performance as the man that Malee is lusting after (the actor has one absolutely spellbinding scene late in the picture that's pretty much worth the price of admission). And as periodically meandering as the opening hour is, there's just no denying the effectiveness of several emotional revelations that crop up towards the film's conclusion - with the end result a movie that generally succeeds in spite of its various deficiencies.


Twelve And Holding (2006)

Reviewed by Stella Papmichael Updated 07 November 2006

Like his acclaimed 2001 debut L.I.E., indie filmmaker Michael Cuesta tells a riveting story of innocence robbed in Twelve And Holding. He draws astonishing performances from a leading ensemble of prepubescents (Conor Donovan, Jesse Camacho, Zoe Weizenbaum) who are left reeling after one of their gang is killed. It doesn't sound like a barrel of laughs, but Cuesta finds wry humour in tragic situations while at the same time thickening the air with quiet foreboding.

A tree-house fire set by bullies claims the life of Jacob's twin brother (both played by Donovan) and sparks notions of murderous revenge. It's an extraordinary set-up, but Jacob's belief that this will win his mother's approval taps into common insecurities. A similarly dark cloud hangs over the fatherless Malee (Weizenbaum) who develops a dangerous crush on troubled ex-fireman Gus (Jeremy Renner). Meanwhile fat kid Leonard begins dieting obsessively after surviving the blaze.


Cuesta's tender portrayal of the children enhances a feeling of dread as they stumble into jeopardy. A scene where Malee creeps up behind Gus as he sobs naked in the shower encapsulates the visceral nature of the film, making the heart pound with fear and compassion. The precocity of the children is also very funny at times, whether it's Malee trying to seduce Gus in a slinky cocktail dress or Leonard defiantly eating an apple at the Christmas dinner table. Occasionally Leonard's thread does feel too much like easy comedy relief with some scenes jarring. Even so, the boldness and sensitivity of the film lend it a firm grip.


IMDb Review

A terrific movie about children, but not for children.

********* 12 August 2006 | by Debukochi – See all my reviews

This is a haunting coming-of-age film about children, bound by a common, shocking tragedy, who struggle to get on with life and overcome their own troubling problems. Despite the severity of issues conveyed in this film's overlapping vignettes, it never becomes melodramatic. Artful screen writing and direction infuse humor in the telling of these children's stories---stories rich with characters who are colorful, but never contrived. All of the children provide very genuine, endearing performances---essential if the audience is going to empathize with them and their disturbing behavior. This movie will frequently make you uncomfortable---very uncomfortable. But no matter how horrifying and even monstrous these children's actions may be, they never lose their appealing and disarming qualities as children. These are very cool kids, even the most troubled, who easily win your affection.

During the course of the movie, one of the children queries the others by asking, "Do you know ninety-percent of people's problems are due to their inability to get over the past?" All of these children will be faced with this challenge. You hope all will overcome this obstacle, but sadly, not all of them will or should be able to get over their past.


Conor Donovan, Zoe Weizenbaum and Jesse Camacho in IFC Films' Twelve and Holding - 2006 Photo: IFC Films'

Conor Donovan, Zoe Weizenbaum and Jesse Camacho in IFC Films' Twelve and Holding - 2006
Photo: IFC Films


Twelve and Holding (2005) Official Trailer # 1





Top Critic Hap Erstein
Atlanta Journal-Constitution August 6, 2006
The film careens from crisis to crisis. Yet each time it threatens to spin out of control, [director Michael] Cuesta demonstrates a firm hand that keeps us leaning in with interest.
Full Review | Original Score: B


Top Critic Ruthe Stein
San Francisco Chronicle June 16, 2006
Raw and unpredictable. It's also compelling.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4


Top Critic Lisa Kennedy
Denver Post June 16, 2006
Flawed but compassionate study of kids struggling with grown-up issues without much adult supervison.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4


Top Critic Susan Walker
Toronto Star June 9, 2006
Cuesta entices extraordinary performances out of his young actors.
Full Review | Original Score: ¾


Felix Vasquez Jr.
Cinema Crazed September 19, 2007
One of the most exceptional, down to Earth portrayals of childhood and adolescence in the face of tragedy I've ever seen...
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4


David Nusair
Reel Film Reviews July 16, 2007
...generally succeeds in spite of its various deficiencies.
Full Review | Original Score: ¾


Doris Toumarkine
Film Journal International March 1, 2007
[An] intelligent and edgy story that allows believable characters and their interpersonal dynamics to come alive as sinister undercurrents ripple below.


Sam Toy
Empire Magazine December 30, 2006
The kids help get the film past its messy, low-budget look, aided by a strong ensemble of familiar adult faces.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/5


Matthew Turner
ViewLondon November 9, 2006
One of the films of the year. Unmissable.
Full Review | Original Score: 5/5


Chris Barsanti October 25, 2006
With his modestly impressive young actors and moody lens, Cuesta finds the normal in the extreme.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/5


Brent Simon
Now Playing Magazine September 22, 2006
A refracted glimpse of American suburbia through the eyes of three pre-teens grappling with grief, reprisal and loneliness, the film boasts some great adolescent performances but can't overcome a rigidly partitioned structure and tonal inconsistency.
Full Review | Original Score: C




**** Melvin W Super Reviewer Jul 08, 2012

Rudy: Our birthday comes once a year and you ask for a hockey mask. You don't even play.  "Do You Know Who Your Kids Are?" Twelve and Holding reminds me a lot of another Indie movie named George Washington. Both are great films about children's loss of innocence surrounding a death of their friend. In Twelve and Holding, we meet four friends. Two of which are twin brothers named Jacob and Rudy. The other two are Malee and Leonard.

Some bullies of the four friends go to burn down their tree house, unaware that they are in it. Rudy dies, and the three other children are left, no longer really children, but not adults either.Twelve and Holding is a sad and hypnotic film. It's also extremely engrossing and compelling. The performances by all the young children are solid, and Jeremy Renner is as good here, as he's ever been. 

The movie isn't as hard to watch as you would think, and if I described some of the actions of the kids after the death of their friend, it would make you think it would be even harder to watch. The writer and director of Twelve and Holding make the movie a lot easier to watch. They don't go over the top in creating situations that are unrealistic or unwatchable.

A few times I thought they were going to take it to far, but they restrained and made the movie all the better because of that restraint.  Twelve and Holding probably isn't going to be a movie you fall in love with.

The story is too devastating to make it a movie that you want to watch again and again. What it is though, is a good Indie drama about kids that are supposed to be kids, but can't.

Situations in life dictate change, and for these kids that change came on earlier than it should have.  I highly suggest giving Twelve and Holding a look. It's a relatively unknown work that deserves to be seen. It's a shame that movies like Twelve and Holding get pushed aside and aren't seen as frequently as movies that don't even deserve to be made.

I've heard this compared to Stand By Me, and it's a fairly accurate comparison. I still think it's more like George Washington, but very few people have seen that one. 


Charles C
Aug 30, 2007
A deep and disturbing but somehow uplifting look at children and their reactions. It offers a well thought out and conceived performance with a nice blend of character actors and beginning actors. Cuesta is brilliant in his work and it share the same gritty nature as LIE had.


John E
Aug 28, 2007
Surprisingly good. I think this is among the few movies I've seen which did a good job of treating kids like actual kids, and not as if they were mentally disabled. How they dealt with death, in particular, I thought was excellent. I had some deaths in my family at a slightly earlier age than the protagonists, but their reaction was far more true to form than most I've seen in movies.

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Vladimir A
Aug 28, 2007
AMAZING. a precious movie about childhood. Great kids cast. Michael Cuesta is a great great great author (check out L.I.E and his contributions to 2 amazing tv shows: DEXTER and SIX FEET UNDER.


Ponder B
Aug 24, 2007
Great movie, good feel, good acting.


Ian M
Aug 24, 2007
This movie is a nice surprise. It's like a modern Stand By Me in some ways, and following the three main characters plots is a joy. It's a surprisingly honest and wonderful movie with humour, drama and fresh new talent.


Private U
Aug 23, 2007
Good movie. Interesting and funny and moving. Shows the complexity of people.

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Josh S
Aug 23, 2007
Amazing! The kids are great actors...I'm proud of his friend too...made me laugh...I love this movie!


jessica l
Aug 21, 2007
moving in the sense that i was both horrified and impressed in a matter of moments. fantastic performances in such a grim telling, but as it's highlighted with appropriate humour - i found it slightly over-whelming. emotionally, of course. i really do recommend this film, i'm glad that after what? two years of searching, i finally found it! run over to your nearest blockbuster.


Ryan T
Aug 21, 2007
amazing film. reminds me of "stand by me" alot


Malin S
Aug 20, 2007
Amazing movie with a strong message... Death, sorrow, hope, growing up, revenge... It's all there! Don't know what else to say... You have to see for yourself! Great actors.


Sarah .
Jul 26, 2006
This movie was far more disturbing and depressing than I thought it would be. That isn't necessarily a bad thing though. The acting was really well done (even if the characters actions were quite upsetting). Aside from the children (who did really well with some very heavy content), Jeremy Renner stood out the most for me. I loved his character (and his acting). It was actually because of him that I was able to understand the young girl, Zoe Weizenbaum's character, better. This movie made me quite emotional by the end - for a couple different reasons (though it was spearheaded by Jeremy). The very ending though, i.e the moment right before the credits, left me a little disappointed. I think I just wanted a little more at the end. Still, all in all, it was good. Deals with a lot of serious issues and delves into some things that we'd probably like to think couldn't happen, but probably are more realistic than we can ever comprehend. What did this movie teach me? I really, really like to see Jeremy Renner in these more realistic dramas that aren't such big blockbusters like his other films.


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Michael S
Jul 11, 2006
Very good movie with great acting. Watch it.


Tyler H
Jul 10, 2006
Wow what a powerful and moving movie. I dont think i have seen better acting by such you actors in the longest time, it is incredible how well acted out it was. Great directing again by Michael Cuesta. All around a well done movie, a bit depressing but brutally honest.


Kristin P
Jun 21, 2006
Very Good Movie. Thats all i have to say about this movie, watch it, learn from it.


taylor h
Jun 21, 2006
I really want to see it it sounds really really good im serious thow read the synopsis thingy and then you will see wat im talking about


Joe R
Jun 19, 2006
[font=Arial]Twelve and Holding is the story about three children and the individual journeys each one makes after the death of one of their friends. Jacob, after the accidental murder of Rudy, his brother, by a group of bullies, seeks revenge and spends his moments visiting the culprits in a Juvenile prison and torturing them with their guilt. Malee deals with becoming a woman, and feeling the agony that a first love brings, while Leonard, after discovering that he has lost his sense of taste and smell during Rudy’s death, seeks to eat healthier and lose the weight he’s put on after years of eating unhealthily. When I first heard the storyline for Twelve and Holding, I immediately thought that it would be the stereotypical “edgy” film, filled with nudity and intense moments put into the film only to make the audience uncomfortable. The film was edgy and intense, but it was one of the best character movies I’ve seen in theaters this year


Evan L
Jun 15, 2006
one of the best films of the year. believable and meaningful!


lorena m
Jun 13, 2006
too many situations you can relate to


Helen L
Jun 12, 2006
Film: Twelve and Holding Year: 2005 Director: Michael Cuesta Starring: Plot in one sentence: What I liked: the child actors, the fire symbolism What I didn't like: Recommended for: Artistic (cinematographic vision) rating: 2 out of 5 berets Feel-good fun rating: 0 out of 5 popcorns