ADOLESCENCE is tough. There is no rulebook to follow, no escape and no redo. Just panic.
Panic over parties, relationships, drugs, grades, sexuality, parents and – of course – the daunting transition into adulthood.
Documentary All This Panic richly explores this time in the lives of a group of teenage girls growing up in Brooklyn, New York.
Shot over a three year span, Jenny Gage’s film is pieced together like a collective visual diary. It fluidly moves from story to story, each individual giving distinctly personal and surprisingly diverse insights into their ‘adolescent’ experiences.
Lena is one of the film’s most prominently featured teens. She is a charmingly geeky extrovert who attends parties with the hopes of getting a boyfriend. Her smiley optimism is juxtaposed with the sad decline of her divorced parents as they battle with mental health issues.
Lena’s wing-woman at these parties is her best friend Ginger. The two constantly squabble over their drunken antics before seamlessly reconciling – as young people have a tendency to do.
Unlike Lena, Ginger is unsure where her future lies after school, tellingly admitting: ‘I am petrified of getting old’.
Although she aspires to be an actress, Ginger does little with her time and struggles to find the next meaningful step in her life. As her younger sister Dusty points out, Ginger is left in an uncomfortable state of ‘purgatory’.
The young women speak with an honesty and vulnerability that lends authenticity to Gage’s subjective gaze. Their words are enhanced by Tom Betterton’s vivid dreamlike cinematography which reflects the fantasy and unknowing that pervades these teenagers’ lives.
For all of the panic, there is room for some strikingly profound comments, especially noteworthy in a generation condemned for its self-absorbed obsessions with Instagram and Snapchat.
Sage, the film’s only African-American voice, poignantly says: ‘People want to look at us but they don’t want to hear what we have to say.’
All This Panic listens intimately and intently.
As with Richard Linklater’s excellent coming-of-age epic Boyhood (2014), there are meaningful lessons to be learnt about the process of growing up from All This Panic. How it affects the young, shapes them, binds them and then catapults them into adulthood.
This is a film that can bring us all – young and old – together. It is worth investing a little time in.
You will come out feeling wiser for the experience and maybe a little more understanding the next time you catch your son or daughter staring transfixed at their mobile.
Don’t panic. All This Panic will suck you in and then spit you out a little more understanding of the world we live in.
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All This Panic – 4/5
Dir: Jenny Gage
Cast: Dusty Rose Ryan, Delia Cunningham, Lena M, Ginger Leigh Ryan, Olivia Cucinotta, Sage Adams
DOP: Tom Betterton
Music: Didier Leplae, Joe Wong
Runtime: 1hr 19