Do you ever walk into a movie, not knowing what to expect (aside from an exceptionally vague synopsis you read online) and leave feeling overwhelmed by an array of emotions you can’t quite define? No? Just me?
Well, if you’re in the mood to experience a surge of emotion, check out All This Panic, a documentary filmed over three years that chronicles the trials and tribulations of growing up as a girl that premiered at The Tribeca Film Festival this year.
An obvious connection to this intimate portrait of youth would be to Richard Linklater’s Boyhood–although that was a narrative and this is so real that it’s sometimes uncomfortable to watch. Sure, some of the experiences throughout this film are unique to those privileged enough to grow up in Brooklyn, but the candid moments were eerily familiar, as if I was actually the one on screen re-living this tumultuous period of life. Scratch that–I’m still in thick of it with these girls.
In just 79 minutes, we see a selection of girls transition through their awkward and perplexing teenage years into young women who, ultimately, begin to find out who they are, what they want, and where they want to be. The group, who are all connected in a way but vastly different from one another, show us just how decisive this time in your life actually is. We watch, almost voyeuristically, as each of the girls go through both trivial and consequential moments. More than that, we can see just minutes later the impact those experiences have had on their lives years down the line.
The film is marketed as documenting the lives of two sisters, Ginger and Dusty, but the real star is Lena, Ginger’s best friend. When we are introduced to Lena at age 16, she is visibly uncomfortable in her own skin. Her family has deep-rooted issues spanning from mental health to financial negligence and it becomes clear, quite quickly, that all Lena wants is to make something of herself and find a more stable footing than she had growing up. Whether that’s as baker, a philosophy professor, the president (or perhaps a mixture of all three), she wants more for herself. As the film continues, we watch her blossom–especially once she leaves her family and goes to college at Sarah Lawrence. She dyes her hair, makes new friends, meets a boy, and most importantly stops cutting herself. If you need a new poster girl for ‘It Gets Better,’ look no farther.
Although their stories weren’t as gripping as I found Lena’s, the film also follows Ginger and Ivy, who feel lost after graduating high school; Olivia, who struggles with coming out to her family; Sage, who is working through the recent death of her father; Delia, who feels constant pressure and insecurity by her peers who are having sex; and Dusty, who can’t quite figure out when she’s going to feel grown up and not like a fraudulent child masquerading as a 17-year-old.
With incredibly introspective and honest interviews taken through various experiences, (anywhere from drinking too much for the first time to being rejected by your crush), director Jenny Gage and her husband Tom Betterton somehow capture the excitement, confusion, and terror that seep into every moment of life as you approach adulthood–a feeling we can all relate to regardless of how or where we grew up.
Although there is no public release date for this, if the buzz following it’s premiere is any indication, it won’t be long until this film hits the big screen nationwide.
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‘All This Panic’ Documents the Fear of Growing Up: Photographs courtesy of Getty Images and Tribeca Film Festival