Film Review: I Saw the TV Glow – 8/10

‘This isn’t normal. This isn’t how life is supposed to feel…’

Nostalgia is not just a powerful drug, it’s also a magic trick. The way that we remember things in our minds is often far removed from the reality of the way things were. I was obsessed with the Transformers Movie as a kid, but returning to it as an adult I found it to be totally incoherent. The pull of nostalgia of course is that we remember the positive stuff but forget all the rubbish. I Saw the TV Glow examines this phenomenon whilst also serving as a comment of gender, the body horror of being a teenager and the power of television…

We begin with Owen (Ian Foreman as a child and Justice Smith as an adult) sat inches away from the glow of a 90s TV watching a fictional show entitled The Pink Opaque. Later, Owen meets Maddy (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and the two bond of their shared love of their favourite TV show and their sense of being an outsider in a small town.

Writer-director Jane Schoenbrun throws everything at the wall here and most of it sticks. I was reminded of Sam Raimi’s early work in terms of how much of this film feels like the work of a virtuoso or even an auteur. It’s all there in the bombastic use of colour and animation, the execution of the show-within-a-show and the jarring existentialism of the film’s bizarre conclusion. While the film does take itself too seriously at times and often threatens to spill over into pretension, when it works, it really hits, and there are moments of genuine dread here. While I found Smith to be a little too detached (until the final scene at least), Lundy-Paine is excellent throughout in what is a multi-faceted and nuanced performance that takes in a number of different iterations of the same character. It’s impressive stuff.

I Saw the TV Glow once again demonstrates why horror movies have never been so important. It is the only genre in which we are regularly getting critically acclaimed and commercially successful films that don’t have to rely on existing IP. This film will be too much for some people, but I imagine a whole generation of confused kids just found their favourite movie.