Last year, Susan Skoog's acutely observed Whatever slipped through theaters without much fanfare, largely because critics failed to look past a few story contrivances and appreciate its deeply felt, near-perfect evocation of suburban teenage life in the '80s. The Adventures Of Sebastian Cole, a promising debut by journalist-turned-director Tod Williams, is another coming-of-age drama set during the same period, and it's likely to suffer the same fate. Too precious, determinedly small by design, and uncertain in its resolution, the film works more in its quirky details than as a whole, but Williams amasses enough of them to atone for his wayward narrative. Adrian Grenier plays the title character, an underachieving teenager whose minor "adventures" are usually attempts to obtain some distance from his troubled family life. After stepfather Clark Gregg announces his intentions to become a woman, Grenier and his drunken mother (Margaret Colin) leave their Upstate New York home for England. But upon realizing that Gregg is more caring and responsible than either of his real parents, he returns to his old town and high school, where he doesn't quite fit in. Williams takes a considerable risk in having a sullen, withdrawn, and passive hero carry the story, but The Adventures Of Sebastian Cole is wise and convincing in its response to the horrors of adolescence. Grenier has pretenses of becoming a writer, but his experiences leave him feeling hollow and indifferent; considering the period, the film seems to chronicle the birth of the disaffected ironist. Understated and lacking a big conceptual hook (even Gregg's would-be transsexual is handled matter-of-factly), The Adventures Of Sebastian Cole is agreeably minor in its ambitions, an experience comparable to reading a really good short story.