Review | I Saw the TV Glow
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I Saw the TV Glow
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Release:
May 03, 2024
Rated:
PG13
Run Time:
100 min
Homepage:
Budget:
$10,000,000
Revenue:
$1,481,700
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Review
By Movie Critic Dave

One of the buzziest films out of this year’s Sundance class was Jane Schoenbrun’s dense but stirring indie, I Saw the TV Glow. While it’s clear, although not directly spelled out for you, Schoenbrun’s latest explores themes regarding those in and connected to the LBGTQ community so cue the polarization. Yet, what makes the film so poignant and effective is its quest to capture the overarching feelings within these concerned and confused teenage subjects, rather than making a statement about what’s right or wrong. As a trans woman herself, Schoenbrun somehow tackles this still socially taboo topic with restrained reverence and passionate conviction, creating one of the most emotionally complex and visually stunning experiences at this year’s SXSW festival.

 

Owen (Detective Pikachu’s Justice Smith) and Maddy (Atypical’s Brigette Lundy-Paine) are lonely teenagers at the same school in the mid-90s. When Owen catches Maddy reading a book about a strange new late-night, young-adult television show called “Pink Opaque”, their bond over this mysterious sci-fi program manifests itself into something far greater. Maddy begins to believe that her and Owen have a connection to the show’s main characters, one that goes beyond explanation. But after she mysteriously vanishes from town, leaving Owen to navigate his formative years on his own, Maddy returns years later so that she and Owen can live out the storyline from the show’s final episode.

 

 

I Saw the TV Glow is an immensely powerful allegory about freeing oneself. The film follows these two youths as they discover a deeper meaning in the episodes of their favorite television show. This inexplicable connection between the teenagers and their beloved TV program serves as a metaphor for those gay and trans youth who feel trapped in their circumstances and bodies. It’s a hypnotic story, framed in a lucid and dreamlike lens that intensifies the intrigue and magnifies the mystery. Thanks to the film’s cryptic narrative structure, I Saw the TV Glow is never feels preachy in its messaging but remains clear in its intention.

 

Writer and director Jane Schoenbrun has plenty to say about this marginalized community. Maddy is the fearless one, sure of the life she wants and refusing to settle for anything different. Owen, on the other hand, struggles to understand himself. He senses the disconnect between how he feels and how he knows he’s supposed to feel, but he doesn’t know how to respond or what to do. These two different perspectives are examined closely and amplified magnetically. The film not only addresses those in the LBGTQ community who have broken free from the shackles of an unchosen identity or lifestyle, it also shines a light on the lifelong purgatory of those who conform to societal norms and are sentenced to suffer with the internal conflict.

 

 

Another impactful aspect of the film resides in its delivery. Owen and Maddy constantly break the fourth wall, narrating the story by staring into the camera and speaking directly to the audience. It works superbly here, building intimacy between their characters and the viewer. Therefore, as the film begins to deeply explore the heartache and personal struggles of our two protagonists, it leaves you no choice but to empathize with their situation.

 

I Saw the TV Glow will have its detractors, that’s just the type of society we live in. However, you couldn’t ask for a more nuanced and meaningful examination of what it feels like to grow up different from those around you and how that struggle may never end unless you choose to do something about it.

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