I read the review of “TV Glow” – a powerful story about self-discovery, being a fan, and fixation.

Estimated read time 5 min read


The surge of “elevated” horror movies after Get Out has become a problem for the genre, as they prioritize creating pretentious metaphors over having a solid plot. This can be a challenging feat to accomplish, as even the acclaimed director Jordan Peele has faced some missteps since his groundbreaking success. Despite this, many continue to attempt to disguise dissertations as films.

However, in the film “I Saw the TV Glow”, which recently debuted at the Sundance film festival, writer-director Jane Schoenbrun effortlessly creates a thought-provoking and engaging piece that strikes a balance between depth and levity. It sparks conversations and deliberations without feeling overly scholarly – a true cinematic experience that remains true to its medium.

The film is noteworthy for its depiction of recent nostalgia, a common trap that often bombards us with pop culture references without purpose or thought. “I Saw the TV Glow” stands out because it avoids these pitfalls, taking place in the 90s and early 00s with a more astute approach. Instead of replicating others’ mistakes, Schoenbrun boldly creates a believable media world (featuring original songs by Phoebe Bridgers and Caroline Polachek) while also acknowledging the damaging effects of nostalgia. The movie does not solely condemn fandom, recognizing the joy and validation that comes with loving a piece of culture. However, it also acknowledges the dangers of becoming too obsessed and losing oneself in that love.

In the beginning, we are introduced to this something on the television that 12-year-old Owen (portrayed excellently by Ian Foreman from Let the Right One In) is watching. It is a commercial for a teenage fantasy show called The Pink Opaque, and Owen is captivated by the horror elements similar to Buffy the Vampire Slayer that are just out of his reach (it airs past his bedtime on Saturday nights). When he meets Maddy, a ninth-grader (played by Brigette Lundy-Paine from Atypical), who is reading an episode guide for the show, they start a tentative and awkward friendship. Owen lies about having sleepovers with another friend so he can watch the show with Maddy. As time passes, an older Owen (played from 14 onwards by Justice Smith, which was a big challenge that paid off) and Maddy barely speak, and their only means of communication is through recorded episodes on videotapes. They are both uncomfortable with life outside of the small screen world they have become obsessed with. When the show gets cancelled, things start to fall apart, and years later, when they see each other as adults in their twenties, they begin to question their perception of reality.

At first, I wasn’t completely convinced by Schoenbrun’s highly praised debut, the low-quality online body horror “We’re All Going to the World’s Fair.” It was an intriguing but incomplete piece that set a certain mood. However, I was impressed by the way they were able to create a sense of deep unease that lingers in your stomach, subtle yet overwhelming. “I Saw the TV Glow” shows remarkable growth for Schoenbrun as a writer and director, with a more substantial and challenging story that still immerses us in their stunning visuals. The precision of the film is so transporting that I can still feel it as I write. The atmosphere is so captivating that it feels like more than just a movie; it’s like an entire world, a frightening and melancholic place that may feel familiar to some of us.

As we age, our ability to immerse ourselves in fictional worlds becomes more difficult. This is not only due to personal changes and limitations, but also because of changes in how we consume entertainment. Schoenbrun recognizes the excitement and sense of accomplishment that came with obtaining physical media, and the challenges we faced in building our collections. In a touching moment, adult Owen discovers that the show he once treasured is now easily accessible through streaming, with just a click. However, it doesn’t feel the same and he begins to question if it was all just a dream or if any of it was real.

The main theme of the film, the uncomfortable situations it presents, will likely be analyzed with the same intense focus that the characters have for their favorite show. It explores themes of loneliness, fandom, and potentially dealing with mental illness or being close to someone who is struggling with it, depicting the pain of losing control. Additionally, it delves into the experiences of being queer or trans, utilizing both characters to showcase the impact of not living authentically, similar to Andrew Haigh’s emotionally charged drama All of Us Strangers. The filmmaker, a nonbinary and trans individual, cleverly and subtly invites the audience into a rarely examined perspective that is often simplified for mass consumption. While the final act may have some flaws in its execution, it still delivers a powerful emotional punch and leaves a lasting impact. I Saw the TV Glow is like a puzzle with missing pieces, leaving many viewers haunted as they try to piece it all together.

  • The film “I Saw the TV Glow” will debut at the Sundance film festival and is set to be released later this year.

Source: theguardian.com

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