I Am Not Okay With This masterfully straddles teen angst with the excitement of supernatural powers.
I Am Not Okay With This marks the second time Jonathon Entwistle has adapted Charles Forsman’s graphic novels, the first being The End of the F***ing World. However, the motif of teen angst and the coming-of-age tale is elevated to supernatural levels when protagonist Sydney Novak (Sophia Lillis) discovers her telekinetic ability.
As if teenage life couldn’t get more angsty, Sydney Novak must learn to control her anger not only to suppress her newfound powers, but protect herself from being discovered. Syd’s quips and ordinary teenage rebellion are quickly seen by the audience as a veil for her feelings of desertion. Her mother’s emotional separation from the suicide of Syd’s father combined with her best friend Dina’s (Sofia Bryant) apparently seamless transition into the world of relationships and sex only cements her attitude to being the ‘other’. In true Carrie style, these feelings find a physical outlet.
The filmic aesthetic of TEOTFW is transferred into IANOWT, giving this Netflix Original an expansive and cinematic feel as well as one of inherent teen nostalgia through repeated golden and warm visual tones. It is not a surprise that the producers of Stranger Things also produced this show, however Forsman’s original story of all things gross and strange during adolescence preserves the voice of the show as one that is merely related and not a copy and paste of the same nostalgic and supernatural themes. The jumble of 70s, 80s and 90s visuals reinforces an idea of a non-time specific drama, serving to make the themes of adolescence and school life universal and at the forefront of the story. It is through this aesthetic that Syd’s powers are presented as both surreal yet grounded in realism, Entwistle masterfully straddling both the genres of teen drama and subversive heroic motifs (needing a mentor, keeping their powers a secret and struggling to control them to name a few) that Forsman wrote so well.
Wyatt Oleff is quickly becoming a fan favourite as Stanley Barber, the wannabe heroic mentor to Syd who is undeniably witty and endearing. Sophia Lillis as Syd also gives a genuine and heartfelt performance as a confused teen desperately needing guidance throughout the season, perhaps the most emotional performance being her outing for desiring more than a platonic relationship with Dina. Lillis and Oleff’s previous collaboration in It (2017) can surely contribute to the believable friendship the two share, one which will definitely be anticipated in the second season as the dark figure is included into the club of those who know Syd’s ability. His appearance to Syd is an exciting if frustrating cliffhanger, raising questions as to who this person could be and whether the second season will embark on a more traditional hero story route or stick to its straddling with teen drama.
It cannot be ignored that the show requires a lot of exposition to set up Syd’s confusion surrounding her father’s suicide as this will late pay off in the finale. However, the show manages to side-step the trap of it feeling too clunky through the use of her diary which through Dina’s cruel boyfriend Brad is proved to be much more than a plot device. There are a lot of homages to be expected too, the most notable being Carrie as Syd runs through her suburbs drenched in blood. However, I Am Not Okay With This manages to maintain a voice of its own, and while Syd’s development hinges on the progression of a second season, the first establishes the show as an enjoyable and emotional watch.
I Am Not Okay With This (Series 1) is available to watch on Netflix now.