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  • Writer's pictureJamie

I Saw The TV Glow - Review

Yikes. We’ve got a heavy one folks. I Saw The TV Glow is the second narrative feature by Jane Schoenbrun, following up their debut, We’re All Going To The World’s Fair. This new film feels like such an evolution from an already strong debut, in concept, metaphor and style. I was blown away by this film, in ways that are resonating with me still, while I write, and I imagine will continue to for a good while after I’m done. 

This is a very personal film to Schoenbrun, capturing a time in their life where they grew up, with feelings reflective of the characters in the film. Jane is able to articulate emotions through horror elements, and fantastical or metaphorical presentations that once they click with you, leave a lasting impact. 

The story is difficult to articulate as it jumps around quite a lot, but I will do my best. 

We meet Owen (Ian Foreman in his youth, and then played by Justice Smith). Who is a young boy, watching some TV, until he sees an advertisement for a show, The Pink Opaque. He is transfixed on the show, clearly sticking with him as he sees Maddy (Brigette Lundy-Paine) reading an episode guide of the show. They connect over the show, with Maddy opening up to Owen a little bit more once they share this interest. 

Owen lies to his parents one night, saying he is going to sleep over at a friend's house, when he is instead going to watch The Pink Opaque with Maddy. They have a stronger connection after this meeting, with a conversation between Maddy and Owen where Maddy admits that she sometimes feels the show is more life real life than real life itself. 

They never watch the show together again, instead Maddy sends Owen tapes of the episodes, with drawings and descriptions of the episodes. Owen watches these over and over, all while family issues persist, with his mother getting sick and eventually passing away. With this, Maddy also moves away and stacked on top of that, The Pink Opaque gets cancelled. 

Owen seems to settle into his life without Maddy or The Pink Opaque, until she comes back eight years later, shaking up the mundanity of the life Owen lives, throwing him into a spiral of self questioning and realisation. 

Shoenbrun has done some interviews along with the release of this film, admitting that the film is one they wrote during a time when they realised they were trans, directly linking a lot of the messaging of the film to this time in their life, with fondness for the 90s, mixed with the uncomfortability and existentialism. Looking at the film through this lens gives it a whole deeper layer that makes me feel such a deeper connection with the film. While I can’t relate personally to the feelings experienced by Jane and so many others, I think there is a lot to be taken from the film, just in the sense of potential and leading a life not meant for you. 

There are monologues detailing struggle and the realities of how time feels that felt so articulate and resonant. I am so impressed by Jane’s ability to articulate these feelings through a story that doesn’t outline it’s messaging in plain terms. 

These deeper layers does allow for some self interpretation which is where I feel I connected most to it. Taking my own meaning from some of these elements. I don’t know how intentional that is from Shoenbrun, as they set out to make a film about the life being led by repression and not living the life you were meant to, but I took a lot from it that I will be thinking and crying about for a long time. 

The look and sound of the film are perfect to me, they have a distinct style that slots right into what I was looking for. It blends the 90s TV aesthetic with a soft and grainy film look to be exactly what I needed. The Pink Opaque reflects on shows like Buffy The Vampire Slayer or Goosebumps, with matching cheesiness that strangely translates to an emotionally effective TV show. The horror elements are not as present as I personally expected from the film, but about halfways through, there is a collection of scenes, where a lot of the emotions and events culminate in ways that scared me more than most “pure” horror films. 

The soundtrack is curated so meticulously, giving you the classic “Bronze” moments from shows like Buffy and cathartic emotional songs that reflect on the moments in the film with ease. I am listening to the soundtrack as I write and I fear I will be stuck with it for a while. 

I wanted to take a quick side note to talk about Jane’s reflection on childhood in this film, as it’s clearly a film they look deep into the past while writing, adding in things that as a child feel significant in ways that don’t quite make sense. As some examples, the parachute that everyone played with in P.E in school , where you all shake it up and down, before running inside to be within the air you created, as the chute slowly drifts down, closing in on you. That memory is so specifically poignant to me for some reason, where you feel like you’re somewhere else, in a world not quite like the one you were in while shaking the parachute. 

Another one being shopping trolleys. They are scattered in the outside areas of the film, out of place and empty. There is no big deal made of them, they’re just scattered around. I think there’s such an unknown element with this as a child, where you see something so clearly out of place and fixate on it, not knowing why or how it got there. 

Finally, at the beginning of the film, when Owen meets Maddy, Maddy mentions that she likes it when it's election day or a day where the school has something going on, because it transforms. I love this, because it's something I felt too, where something familiar is different, not positively or negatively, the air just doesn’t quite feel the same. Like the last day of school before summer, or an inspection day. Those moments when the world is not quite the same really stick out in ways you can’t articulate, and its nice to see them in a film like this. 

So needless to say, I loved this film, and feel like I love it more the more I talk or hear about it. I’m so impressed by the density of the film, and how such complex emotions and themes can be presented in such unique ways. I will take some time from this film, to process a lot of what’s going on, but I cannot wait to see how I will connect this on a second watch, knowing how I feel right now. Good work Jane. 


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