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Not another teen drama: On Netflix's new show, 'I Am Not Okay With This'

Netflix is obsessed with teenagers. Or wait, is it the other way round?

We are only two months into 2020, and the streaming service has already given us that lukewarm sequel to that film about that teen who wrote letters to all the boys she loved before, and which gave the Internet that swoon-worthy pin-up. There is also that new (stellar) season of that show about teens experiencing sexual awakening. And last week, Netflix dropped I Am Not Okay With This , a new show about yet another confused, angsty teen coming to terms with — what else but — a whole lot of curveballs pubescence throws her way.

This girl, Sydney, hasn’t yet wrapped her head around the recent death of her father; she may be in love with her best (girl) friend, who’s in turn smitten with the annoying school jock; and she is struggling to come to terms with bodily changes… like zits on her thighs. Nothing new here, you might say.

But wait, there is a twist: Sydney may have telekinetic abilities. Only, it is not some cool superpower kids in Marvel stories (or even other Netflix shows like Stranger Things ) use to save the world. Instead, it is a force that awakens during Sydney’s darkest moments, like when she is furious about getting second-hand treatment by her bestie, or when immense grief over her parent’s death strikes. It is quite possible that Charles Forsman, whose comic book the show is based on, thought, “What if teen angst was a superpower?” and then wove a story around it.

Two previously frothy movie genres — the teen movie and the superhero movie — have been mined for dark TV lately. Both these strands combine in I Am Not Okay With This, and rather well. Director Jonathan Entwistle has a knack for presenting clichéd adolescent issues through an interesting new lens, as he showed in The End Of The F*cking World. (You guessed it. Another Netflix teen show.) That, too, was an adaptation of a Forsman graphic novel, and the director and author are clearly in fine sync.

This time, they serve up an expectedly dark but also unassumingly wicked teen drama that has the ability to surprise you. I ventured into it with pretty much the same attitude I do other shows about young adults nowadays (“Ack! One more.”), but stayed around till the rather satisfying end. There is also the lovely Sophia Lillis, who has been turning up in films ( It ) and TV shows ( Sharp Objects ) lately, and she plays Sydney with understated, twisted charm. Wyatt Oleff (another It alumni) plays Stanley Barber, a boy who is smitten with Sydney, and he’s a real find, too.

If you can look past familiar teen show tropes in the early moments, you will find that I Am Not Okay With This slowly transforms into an unsettling drama that, at seven 20-odd-minutes-long episodes, is a breeze. A short teen show — small mercies!

Season One of I Am Not Okay With This is now streaming on Netflix.

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Printable version | Sep 23, 2022 6:36:07 am |