The growing pains that come with the leap from adolescence to adult are never the easiest to circumnavigate. This is something that hasn’t been lost on director Jenny Gage who, together with her cinematographer husband Tom Betterton, has crafted a thoughtful and candid female coming of age documentary. If, at first, the film appears dangerously close to self-consciously mimicking that woozy indie cinema aesthetic – all soft focus, floaty camerawork and sunlight spilling into the frame – this artifice thankfully ebbs away in time as the themes are allowed to percolate and the film finds its own probing personality.
Best friends Ginger and Lena (credited as ‘Lena M.’ presumably to help keep her family’s post-breakup issues as private as possible) are the ostensive ‘leads’ here, but the story splinters out to five other Brooklyn-based teenage girls, some vaguely connected to the duo, others more intimately so (Ginger’s younger sister Dusty is another figure). All are on the verge of womanhood and facing many of the same predicaments, regardless of their social standing. Ginger and Dusty are from a privileged background which offers up both advantages and setbacks, while Sage (one of the few black students at her private Manhattan school) and Lena have been forced to find the coping mechanisms in dealing with the aftermath of death and divorce.
That all-important transitional period between school and college – the film’s narrative span – results in some genuinely poignant changes, not least for Lena, who goes from a gangly, nervy teen to a confident and astute woman, still having to deal with a tumultuous family life. Spending time with her towards the end of the film conjures up a similar feeling to watching Ellar Coltrane’s character making those physical and mature leaps in Boyhood. Seeing these girls forge their own paths in the world, and dealing with the obstacles which come with that, leaves you with a renewed sense of hope for the self-absorbed Snapchat generation.
All This Panic is released on March 24th