I Saw The TV Glow | Review by: Benjamin Garrett

 Think about your favourite show from when you were young. Chances are, it played a pivotal, maybe even transformative role in your life. Every time you tuned in, it swept you off your couch and took you somewhere else. It was magic, or at least that’s the way you remember it. I Saw the TV Glow blurs the lines between fiction, reality and memories, but also blurs its ability to clearly convey its own big ideas in the process. 

There’s a lot to unpack with this movie. There are some truly fascinating ideas at play, and the allegorical DNA coursing through the film’s veins will no doubt strike a chord with some viewers. If you’ve ever struggled with self-identity, or not feeling at home in your own body, this movie may cut unexpectedly deep. I respect the artistic approach to conveying those feelings, but the deeper themes aren’t always as accessible as I would’ve liked. I don’t need my hand held, but sometimes it felt as if the movie was too fixated on atmosphere and unsettling visuals, rather than imparting its message to viewers. Conversations feel stilted, filled with long, drawn out pauses that only exist to make scenes feel moodier. There’s also quite a bit of exposition conveyed through a character talking to the camera, which I was not a fan of. 

The atmosphere is exceptional, though, creating an etherial, often nightmarish vibe both beautiful and frightening. The set design will hit you with a wave of familiar nostalgia, but also fill you with a sense of unease. Director Jane Shoenbrun has demonstrated once again an impressive grasp on the creepier side of internet culture, as she populates this film with liminal spaces and backroom-esque locations. Alex G’s haunting score accentuates the visuals perfectly, and the thoughtfully curated soundtrack is also quite effective.

There’s an odd choice made with casting that broke immersion for me during the first act. The 12 year old version of Justice Smith’s character is played by Ian Foreman, who’s actually 12 years old. There’s a two year time jump, where Smith (who is 28) takes over the role, playing a 14 year old version of the character, and eventually the adult version. It isn’t new for older actors to play younger characters, but this was a stretch, and jarring to see such a small time difference played by two actors of very different ages. Once Smith does take over the role, he’s quite good. This may even be career best work from him. Brigette Lundy-Paine gives a powerful performance, effortlessly capturing the pain, confusion and anger her character feels. She’s got a monologue towards the end of the film that gave me goosebumps. 

I Saw the TV Glow takes an ambitious approach to conveying some important themes, but gets lost within its own etherial, neon drenched atmosphere. It’s often frustrating, but also haunting, poignant and beautiful in equal measure. I’m still not sure how I feel about it, but I can’t say I’ll forget it anytime soon. 


Review by: Benjamin Garrett

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