I Am Not Okay With This review: Netflix series is yet another teen drama but with an interesting premise
I Am Not Okay With This also explores young adult relationships, the confusion of puberty, and moving away from old friends as adult life takes over.
Who doesn’t enjoy a good teenage high-school drama? There’s something about a coming-of-age tale that appeals to all of us, the life depicted being both nostalgic and relatable.
Netflix’s recent show I Am Not Okay With This shows the life of Sydney Novak (Syd), who’s moved to Pennsylvania two years ago. Based on Charles Forsman’s graphic novel of the same name and produced by the team that made Stranger Things, the show explores teenage relationships, friendships and angst in great detail.
The opening scene shows Syd covered in blood, walking through the night, a startlingly violent start to a not-so-violent show (mostly). Syd, played by Sophia Lillis, seems to be just another regular teenager. She’s coming to terms with her best friend dating an insufferable jock, trying to resist the advances of her weird neighbour Stan (Wyatt Oleff) and dealing with her dad’s death a year ago. She also seems to have this knack of blowing things up when she’s angry. She can also hurt others, as is discovered when she causes Brad’s nose to bleed, or even potentially harms a family pet.
While this superpower and Syd’s attempt to accept (and then control) it seems to be the crux of the show, what really makes the show work is the portrait of teenage and family life that it draws. Whether it is Syd’s affection for Dina, or her brother Liam’s escapades, or whether it is the constant clash with her mother, Syd and the show’s director Jonathan Entwistle hit the right notes from the start.
I Am Not Okay With This also explores young adult relationships, the confusion of puberty, and moving away from old friends as adult life takes over. In fact, the parts dealing with her superpowers are the most weak and dull moments of the show, even though the end clearly shows that the second season will focus on precisely that aspect. What’s well done is the ability to highlight the telekinesis as an expression of teenage angst and rage, and while the ability in itself is something Syd tries to keep secret, the anger issues seem to be well-known, with Syd being asked to go to the school counsellor for help. It is here that she is asked to document her feelings in a diary and the whole narrative becomes Syd’s letters to her diary, describing each incident and emotion she is feeling. While this serves the purpose of each incident being underlined by exactly what Syd was feeling at the time, it seems to be redundant and the feelings don’t really need to be explicitly explained.
Sophia Lillis is brilliant as the troubled teenager- the battle of loneliness and anger finding expression in her acting and her portrayal of this character. Oleff as the weird friend is humorous and lovable. Both Lillis and Oleff acted together in the recent It movies and their comfort and chemistry together is apparent in this show as well. Aidan Wojtak-Hissong as Syd’s younger brother is adorable, providing many awww moments in a show that’s not going for either sentimental or cute.
The show begins well and takes time to set up the characters and the plot, but is let down by an unconvincing end.
One of my favourite moments is when Syd is talking about her relationship with Stan. She was still weird or a freak, she says, but with him around, she felt “less weird”. This is a beautiful description of teen friendships really- where each person has their own individual quirks, but the most comforting and comfortable moments are with those people who accept the quirks, show you their own, and make you feel less weird, if only for a few moments.
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