The empathy quotient for this film is so high it’s legitimately difficult to watch. The veracity and verisimilitude with witch director Bo Burnham and revelatory star Elsie Fisher imbue the film is so real it feels unreal; everything, from the cast playing their actual ages, to the realistic stumbling and odd noises in dialogues, to the nuanced family dynamic, it all reflects reality in a way that feels striking and abnormal for cinema like this. The depiction of social media is bare – it is, without judgement, it simply is the reality for children of the day. So goes the drills for school shootings as well (a rare barrier to relatability, in terms of non-American audiences at least). There’s no pretension, just authenticity.
A lot of the film’s visuals are understated, but purposeful, like the lighting in a threatening scene that keeps an assailant’s face all in shadowy background, the lead lit in the foreground, and the eyelines never connecting. Mostly filmed in medium close-ups, we’re never given the chance to leave the lead’s mindset, and for good reason, as the suffocating of her social anxiety is a core part of the experience. The music is also striking, the composer having been briefed by the director to “[sound like] Trent Reznor was a thirteen year-old girl”. It really shows! The cloyingly sweet instrumentation jars with the actual repetitive tension of the music in interesting ways. Hearing the actual push on the synthesisers is a nice touch too; everything feels so authentic and painfully real in the film.
Stunningly empathetic, painfully real, revelatory in its authenticity. Four packets of sauce, and a hypocritic self-help video.