“I don’t have the first idea how men are supposed to behave,” states William Harding (Mark Webber) in Ethan Hawke’s The Hottest State. Based on his novel, adapted for the screen and directed by Hawke, the movie bravely captures some of the angst and confusion facing young men today – especially those without father figures like William.

In an entertainment landscape full of boy-men cracking jokes on the road to adulthood (Old School, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, You, Me and Dupree), The Hottest State provides welcome refreshment in its attempt to grapple with more sincere and troubling issues of growing up.

William, a bit adrift and untethered – although the always-great Laura Linney shows up as his mom – falls hard for the mysterious and beautiful Sarah (Catalina Sandino Moreno). Complicated and wounded, Sarah whips William into a frenzy of lust, heartache and confusion that leaves him shaken to the core.

While far from perfect – the movie feels a bit redundant and whiny at times – The Hottest State does manage to illustrate that sticky, uncomfortable first love that really fits more into the category of infatuation. In a way that feels quite real and messy, the two main characters make tons of mistakes that both make you root for them and then cringe in despair – sometimes because it hits too close to home.

One of the picture’s finest lines serves as a sort of rebuttal to all the naysayers who insists Hawke is overstepping his boundaries as an actor. Said by Sarah, the line captures the yearning and naiveté of The Hottest State: “Don’t you find it odd, when you’re a kid everyone tells you to follow your dreams. When you get older, they act all offended if you even try.”

Grade: B-

The Hottest State is currently available.