Horror is my favorite genre because, in my opinion, it’s the best one for showcasing emotion and commentary. Every horror trope is a representation of human anxiety, anger, and fear. And when those emotions take on a physical representation, it’s up to the characters to grapple with their own psyches. In Netflix’s new series I Am Not Okay With This, based on the comic by Charles Forsman, we get to watch our main character fight the horrors of puberty.
What’s her story?
Sydney Novak is a high school junior in a dead-end Pennsylvania town who is reeling from the recent suicide of her father and her subsequent strained relationship with her mom. At the same time, she has to take care of her little brother and deal with the fact that her best friend, Dina, is pulling away from her to date a cruel football player named Brad. None of this is the main plot, though: Sydney discovers in the first episode that she has telekinetic powers. Powers that are destructive, out of her control, and only manifest when she feels strong emotions. Sydney’s challenge throughout the show is to get through school, try and maintain her friendship with Dina, take care of her brother, and grieve the death of her father, all while trying to not destroy the world around her when she gets overwhelmed.
Wait, isn’t that the girl from It?
Yes, it is! Sophia Lillis plays Sydney, and she was also Beverly in the recent film adaptations of Stephen King’s It. She was the best part of the show for me. Her performance is so strong. Lillis manages to get across Sydney’s tough, angry exterior while also showing the emotional turmoil and vulnerability that lies beneath the surface.
Another It actor makes an appearance here, as well: Wyatt Oleff plays, funnily enough, another character named Stanley. This Stan is Sydney’s neighbor and friend, the only other person who knows about her powers. He is such a charming and interesting character, and I think Oleff did a great job also showcasing a range of emotions for him. Just like in It, Oleff and Lillis play off each other very well, and this relationship forms the heart of the show. For this dynamic alone, I think I Am Not Okay With This is worth watching.
What didn’t you like about it?
This show suffers from what I call Riverdale syndrome, where people who are very clearly in their mid-20s are supposed to be playing 17 year olds. This took me out of the show a lot. Moreover, I think that the performances from Dina and Brad paled in comparison to Sydney and Stan, so it wasn’t as believable that so much conflict could be caused by Syd loving Dina so much.
In terms of writing, there were a lot of pretty formulaic and stereotypical moments. This is partly a teen drama, after all. But I also think that the strong performances from the central cast made it work, ultimately. One thing I do wish is that this was more of a stand-alone series, because the ending set up a new season and I think that took away from the central story of Syd’s coming of age.
If you’re looking for a supernatural teen drama to binge over the weekend while you’re social distancing, then this is a good show for you. It’s really short and fast-paced, and the characters will draw you in. Don’t expect anything you haven’t seen before, though.(3 / 5)