A remarkable documentary capturing the dreamy haze of a particular point in a group of young women's lives
The closing credits of documentary All This Panic commence with “A Film by Jenny Gage and Thomas Betterton,” an unusual credit in that Betterton is otherwise not listed as a director for the film, but as cinematographer and also one of the producers. The attribution feels appropriate, though, as the combination of Betterton and Gage (who herself has a background in art photography) both went about documenting the subjects of their movie over the course of three years, primarily in intimate, small group set-ups and with camera lenses more commonly used in narrative filmmaking.
Gage’s film follows seven very different girls from Brooklyn across the three years, some a few years apart in age and a few connected by blood or years-long friendships. What ties them all together outside of area codes is articulate introspection on their hopes and worries for how their lives are going, from issues of feminism and sexuality to the concern they’re growing up too fast and the uncertainty that comes with losing support systems. Regarding the latter, ostensible ‘lead’ of the doc, Lena M., has her parents’ divorce to contend with alongside a move to college education, but when it comes to the other players, the doc is particularly astute in examining the familial tensions that arise with anyone in the stirred up ‘panic’ years of late adolescence.
The overall result is a tender, kaleidoscopic portrait that captures the dreamy haze of a particular point in youth, in all its freneticism and fragility. Though a far shorter project, it is worthy of comparison to the likes of Michael Apted’s Up series, in offering a considerably more complex, compassionate depiction of the transition into adulthood than is provided in most films, whether fiction or documentary.
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