(CNN)"And Then I Go" is a powerful film about two alienated young boys who become so unhappy at school that they devise a shooting plot to seek revenge on their fellow classmates.
'And Then I Go' explores the struggles of youth that can lead to school violence
The movie is based on Jim Shepard's 2004 novel, "Project X" and is directed by Vincent Grashaw.
The film comes at a time of nationwide discussion and demonstrations around gun violence. In a recent interview with CNN, Grashaw spoke about why he wanted to bring Shepard's book to the screen now.
"I felt the material was important because it was less about school shootings and more about the power of friendship at that age, the devastating real struggles of youth, struggles we as adults tend to forget or make light of, which honestly can just make the issues with kids worse," he said. "Instead of validating very real feelings. Their reality is their reality and some just aren't equipped to deal with the elevated emotions they experience at such a young age."
Grashaw acknowledged that he was "nervous" to tackle such a hot button issue.
"Obviously when you make the decision to make a film on such a sensitive and timely issue, it suddenly feels like you're walking a tightrope," he said. "It made me nervous to be honest. But I felt as long as we found the right kids to play the two leads and stayed true to the writing, we were gonna be ok."
The movie centers around the lives of two eighth grade students, Edwin [Arman Darbo] and Flake [Sawyer Barth] and the daily bullying they endure that culminates in their turn to violence.
The film also stars Justin Long and Melanie Lynskey as the parents of one of the troubled boys.
Barth, 16, spoke to CNN about what he came to realize while making the film.
"A huge thing I learned playing Flake is that these child killers that we see on the news are a lot more like the rest of us than we think," he said. "It can just take a few wrong moves or hateful comments from the people around you for you to make a decision that will turn you into something entirely different."
Grashaw says there isn't a "singular answer" in preventing school shootings.
"Ultimately, I think the film recognizes that each shooting is unique and likely the product of something far more relatable than mental illness. Accepting that is a first step and may be a good place to start when researching this issue," he said.
Barth echoed Grashaw's sentiments and said "something has to change."
"I have no concept of the means by which we can prevent gun violence from happening, whether it's increased gun control, or more efficient mental health evaluations of students, or just teaching everyone how to be nicer to each other. Perhaps all of these," Barth said. "We're gonna have to figure it out soon, as a community, or else people young and old are going to keep dying."
"And Then I Go" released digitally and on demand on April 17.