May 16, 2024

GENRE | Suburban Obsession – 'I Saw the TV Glow' x SIFF 2024

"This isn't the Midnight Realm! It's just the suburbs."
Justice Smith Brigette Lundy-Paine Jane Schoenbrun | I Saw The TV Glow  A24
Seattle International Film Festival
Non-binary indie filmmaker Jane Schoenbrun writes and directs the coming-of-age, art-horror fantasy I Saw the TV Glow about how two troubled suburban youths spiral down a sinister path over their shared obsession with a supernatural cult television series from the mid-1990s that doubles as a transcendent examination of gender dysphoria.

Starring Justice Smith (with Ian Foreman as his younger counterpart) and Brigette Lundy-Paine as Owen and Maddy, a pair of alienated teens of non-normative gender identities and sexual orientations who come from broken homes and struggle to fit in or express themselves. They bond over their common fandom of The Pink Opaque, a fictional YA late night genre show with a complex and deep mythology in the mould of Are You Afraid of the Dark? meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer, while struggling to deal with the oppressive masculinity surrounding them.

Produced by Emma Stone, Schoenbrun crafts an electrifying interpretation of fractured queer or transgender self-discovery. Through their characters, I Saw the TV Glow's stunning vision of confused adolescence achingly captures the perils of youth without proper parental guidance or nurturing. Their hazy interpretation of '90s entertainment aimed at lost teenagers with too much time and not enough creative outlets perfectly sums up the angsty vulnerability of young adulthood outside of socially accepted or gender-normative experiences.

I Saw the TV Glow makes some bold, often bizarre visual and emotional choices but completely commits to them in exciting but often off-putting ways. Schoenbrun masterfully conjures a haunting metaphorical journey of what it's like to desperately see yourself in the media or pop culture you consume amidst an endless suburban prison of sinister inescapable homogeneous malaise and existential dread. How it treats teenage fandom and turns it into an achingly chilling portrait of queerness as a kind of surreal psychological thriller is a remarkable cinematic achievement.

I Saw the TV Glow screened at the 2024 Seattle International Film Festival as part of the New American Cinema program.


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