I Saw the TV Glow Review

I Saw the TV Glow
I Saw the TV Glow
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We’re All Going to the World’s Fair, a debut narrative feature by Jane Schoenbrun, premiered at Sundance in 2021 where it was screened virally due to COVID-19. Consequently, We’re All Going to the World’s Fair actually became suited for this form as an immersive exploration of creepypasta culture. This is Schoenbrun’s second movie and it has been produced together with A24 which is considered a miniature corporation. For this reason, the money spent played its role well: I Saw the TV Glow film that should be watched on the biggest screen possible.

I Saw The TV Glow has some stunningly beautiful shots: they are hazy and transient images that convert everyday suburbia into Day-Glo dreamscapes. An abandoned ice cream truck with a green glow and smoke coming from its rear end. A Fruitopia vending machine appears like an urban lighthouse in the darkened cafeterias of school. In one shot, a supermarket vegetable aisle becomes a neon fantasia under Schoenbrun’s gaze through his lens. Akin to his hand-sketched aesthetic in World’s Fair, he scales up here but it retains this luminous quality while adding details and compositions. It is a labor of love and you can tell.

The content too is hazy and ephemeral tracing Owen (Ian Foreman and Justice Smith) over two decades of his life. When we first meet him in 1996, Owen (Ian Foreman/Justice Smith) who is lonely finds Maddy (Brigette Lundy-Paine), an outcast slightly older than him at high school as an unlikely friend. They bond over their mutual obsession with The Pink Opaque – a soapy teen horror anthology about two girls named Tara (Lindsey Jordan) and Isabel (Helena Howard) who use their psychic link to fight supernatural malevolence.

There are “teasers” from the “show” – a sort of cross between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Goosebumps – that appear throughout the film, morphing from washed-out HD to grainy VHS with flashes of Lumière Brothers-style stop motion. They are surreal, funny, and sometimes scary; they contribute to the impression that we are watching a dream or a dimly remembered episode of TV from twenty years past.

As his home life becomes more difficult for Owen, Maddy and The Pink Opaque provide an outlet. His father (Fred Durst) just doesn’t get it-“Isn’t that a girls’ show?” he says when Owen asks if he can stay up late to watch it –and his mother (Danielle Deadwyler) is distracted. So Owen starts sleeping over at Maddy’s basement every Saturday night, where they watch his favorite series (“10:30-11 Saturdays on the Young Adult Network,” characters repeat like a mantra), and begin to share their feelings. Maddy mumbles angrily and only occasionally looks at you. Owens does not seem confident enough to express himself as he hesitates before giving any opinion while sucking on his inhaler. Both leads give heartbreaking performances; however, Lundy-Paine’s is particularly affecting, with an obvious personal connection between her and the material she performs here.

In one touching scene, Maddy tells Owen that her former best friend has abandoned her because she “likes girls.” “I think I like TV programs,” Owen informs. Owen is asexual, but there’s more going on than just that; later on, Maddy dramatically reappears in Owen’s life, reminding him of things he needs to remember but would rather forget. The line between reality and TV blurs beyond comprehension, and an episode of The Pink Opaque where Tara and Isabel are buried alive by “big bad” Mr. Melancholy becomes a metaphor for Owen’s stunted self-realization. Here, I Saw the TV Glow gets scarier and more surreal: The “TV Glow” of the title is no longer a friendly hum, but a paralyzing scream. Alex G’s score gets louder and more grating as well, accompanying a shift in the soundtrack from dream-pop to doom-rock.

At Sundance, Schoenbrun described I Saw the TV Glow as an “egg crack” movie, a slang term for the thrilling moment at which someone realizes they’re trans. In this paragraph, Maddy speaks about feeling like she was watching herself on television from inside an inflatable astronomy tent (a reference to plastic people in We’re All Going to the World’s Fair). While this dysphoric dissociation is pervasive throughout I Saw the TV Glow other treatment of gender transformation themes are much more subtle and urgent even: There is hope for you yet reads writing made in chalk late into this film.

The vulnerability with which Schoenbrun explores their own feelings about gender in I Saw the TV Glow makes it hurtful at times as though they were all about crying any minute now including the audience itself. That is why it seems obscure occasionally: since emotions expressed here have been deep-seated too. Apropos brief wishiness-washiness; again nostalgia drives most scenes of I Saw the TV Glow. A specific decade flavors innumerable ’90s jabbers and 16 songs by numerous artists like “Phoebe Bridgers” and “King Woman” were commissioned by Schoenbrun for a Donnie Darko-like CD that they wore out as a teenager.

To all those high-school loners who had an imaginary friend made up of TV characters and individuals who eventually realized that somehow they got old overnight. This is an honest personal statement wrapped beautifully into horrifying art with some strains of realism; it exists on its wavelength quite approachable to other lost souls out there, sensitive ones. But if what keeps one solitary child company is at least this way with these characters it will be all worth it.


I Saw the TV Glow is an honest personal statement wrapped up in a surreal horror film, more than anything else it’s a love letter that showcases Jane Schoenbrun’s originality and amazing beauty as a writer-director. In a hazy world reminiscent of Day-Glo dreamscapes from the 1990s, Schoenbrun cloaks two lonely teenagers—plus their own reflections upon gender—with such kind of fog. Both Justice Smith and Brigette Lundy-Paine provide haunting performances, but Lundy-Paine has a special understanding of the subject matter.

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