This first feature for filmmaker Jordan Melamed uses the verite style of the Dogme 95 movement for a hard-hitting drama centering on a group of troubled teens. Taking place entirely in a psychiatric ward, the film opens with Lyle (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who has chosen to accept calm in the wake of being treated for wounds due to a violent outburst from a fight that left another young man in horrible shape. Learning that he won’t be taken home by his mother, he is transferred instead to a juvenile lockdown facility and deemed a menace to society. After being sedated during an episode, he wakes up to a room shared by Kenny (Cody Lightning), a 12-year old child molester. Lyle is put off by his new surroundings and refuses to befriend the other inmates or cooperate with the patient, weary Dr. Monroe (Don Cheadle). But Lyle soon begins to adapt to his new life, meeting Chad (Michael Bacall), a bipolar case with an impending release who lures Lyle into a plan for an escape. Lyle also finds solace in Tracy (Zooey Deschanel), a young girl plagued with nightmares and self-mutilation, who finds herself drawn to him as well. Manic also features Elden Henson, Sara Rivas, and Blayne Weaver in supporting roles.