Review: I Saw the TV Glow

I Saw the TV Glow

Before the streaming era took hold, it was considered unusual to be so deeply attached to TV shows. Although there were groups of people deeply interesting in cult shows like ‘Twilight Zone’ ‘Twin Peaks’ and ‘The X-Files’. Because of their strange subject matters, fanatics for these shows were often viewed as outsiders, not fitting into what was considered mainstream society. When people found a show they connected with and could be their obsession it could also turn into their personality. 

In Jane Schoenbrun’s second feature , ‘I Saw the TV Glow’  the television series featured in the film deeply fascinates these two societal teenage outsiders. Owen (Justice Smith ) and Maddy (Bridgette Lundy-Paine), become consumed by their obsession with a ‘Buffy’ style TV series. Maddy, particularly, sees the show as more than just entertainment. The premise for the show they’re obsessing over,  ‘The Pink Opaque’, is about Tara (Lindsey Jordan) and Isabel (Helena Howard), the program’s young heroines who meet at a sleep-away camp, become telepathically connected. They battle monstrous enemies  under the command of Mr. Melancholy, the moon-faced villain who rules the Midnight Realm.

Maddy, a brooding young woman a few years older than Owen, delves herself into episode summaries and talks to Owen about the hidden nuances of the show. Owen, an only child under the thumb of strict parents who forbid him from staying up to watch the show airing at 10:30 p.m. on Fridays, resorts to sleepovers with Maddy or relies on bootleg videotapes she procures for him to catch up.

But, the show is suddenly canceled, and Maddy disappears. 

Years later, Maddy makes a return and gives a minimal explanation for her absence.

What’s her revelation?

The Pink Opaque is real. I’ll stop here to avoid revealing too much.

The remainder of the film explores how their obsession with the show has shaped them in their lives and  explores Owen’s journey of his sexual self discovery regarding his sexuality.

Throughout Owen’s story, he guides us through the stages of his life with voiceover, blurring the line between real life and reality, Owen’s inner world, and the incomprehensible just beyond the curtain. 

A significant part of the appeal of ‘I Saw The TV Glow’  is its deep commitment to nostalgia.

As well as the filmmaking style which  captivates, putting the viewer in a dreamlike state and opens a portal to the fragmentation of today’s young generation, shedding light on the distorted self-perceptions we hold as we seek fragments of our identities through fictional characters and nostalgic teenage TV.  The film is like a portal to the decayed core of the current generation and offers an ambitious take on a coming of age story, engulfed by media and loneliness. ‘I Saw the TV Glow’  is a surrealist journey that  will be loved by many of us and misunderstood by others. All in all, what this film leaves you thinking is how complex life can be. 

I Saw the TV Glow is out now in Cinema du Parc. See info HERE.