'I Am Not Okay With This' Review: Sophia Lillis and Wyatt Oleff's bond is a blessing in this cut-and-dried plot
For all its mystery and magic, Season one merits only two and a half stars
This review contains no spoilers for the Netflix show 'I Am Not Okay With This'
Superpowers, sexuality, teen angst and tragic past — aren't these ingredients for a perfect coming-of-age TV series? Yes, they are. But, no, they don't always work. Like old wine in a new bottle, 'I Am Not Okay With This' is a new Netflix original series based on Charles Forsman's graphic novel.
“Dear Diary, go f**k yourself!” Yes, that's exactly how we are introduced to the lead character, Sydney. Played by Sophia Lillis, she introduces herself as “a boring 17-year-old white girl”. An angst-ridden teen struggling with her sexuality and temper issues, she says, “I'm not special.” The prelude is quite peculiar as, in the very next scenes, we discover she is indeed special, thanks to her telekinetic powers.
Every adolescent, at one time or another, feels like hurling a bowling ball in a fit of rage. For Sydney, it happens a lot more often — that too, with serious repercussions. She navigates high school awkwardness, family drama and an unrequited crush on her best friend while trying to get her budding superpowers in control. In the trailer, her character runs down the streets in a blood-soaked dress and that is enough proof for the big trouble her powers have led her into.
Lillis does quite a good job at portraying the anxious, shy and hot-tempered character. Exploring sexual desires, reeling with her father's mysterious death and circling around puberty woes, Syd is in the spotlight and efficaciously steers the plot forward. An irreverent origin story, the show tries its best to make disgusting things normal. In a 'Lizzie McGuire'-style narrative, it lends an insight into how thoughts and actions can be at loggerheads. But for most of the other part, the series swims in its similarities with 'Stranger Things' and 'Carrie'.
Soon, Sydney meets Stanley Barber, who lives right down the street. Played by the charismatic Wyatt Oleff, the character's idiosyncrasies add fun elements and wacky humor. It is definitely a delight to see the 'IT' and 'IT: Chapter Two' actors reunite on this show and their bond is a blessing in this cut-and-dried plot.
Syd's best friend Dina also plays a key role. Actress Sofia Bryant's happy-go-lucky side brings a new appeal to the show. It is Dina's love interest — the “golden boy” Bradley Lewis — who is loathsome right from the beginning. Like every high school drama, actor Richard Ellis aptly ushers the much-needed negative vibes.
Directed by Jonathan Entwistle and Christy Hall, however, the aesthetics bring nothing new to the table. The fact that the series comes from the producers of 'Stranger Things' and the director of 'The End of the F***ing World' says a lot about its plot trajectory. It is rather disappointing that even with good potential, the first season doesn't have much to tell other than the fact that Sydney is a sort of 'superhero' with no clue about the intensity of her powers.
To put it straight, the weird-girl-with-superpowers story is overdone! Nevertheless, the relatability factor for teenagers might prove to be the winning formula. If you're looking to casually binge-watch another coming-of-age story, go for it. For all its mystery and magic, Season one merits only two and a half stars.
However, there's hope that the showrunners will add more suspenseful and dark elements in its forthcoming seasons — if it is greenlit by Netflix — and that is perhaps the only good news we have for now.
In a Syfy interview, Entwistle said, “There is, without going into too much detail, a much bigger, under-the-surface conspiracy that goes back much further to do with the powers.” He added, “That will then come to light for the subsequent seasons where she and her powers — being the most powerful — will be used to somebody else's gain, or not. Depending on where we go.” Hope is a good thing, maybe it will work here, maybe it won't — for now, there's a long wait ahead.