How much insight can you really get from a bunch of teenage girls? That’s the question Jenny Gage’s documentary sets out to answer as she follows a group of seven friends and sisters as they leave high school, enter college and face the real world.
Her approach is incredibly intimate, developed over the three years she spent with the girls. It’s a feeling reinforced by her use of extreme closeups for the interviews, filmed with a shallow depth of field that focuses your attention on the speaker. It’s an abstract approach compared to most documentaries and it helps to place the viewer within this group of friends, giving voice to an often ignored or patronised demographic.
The most pressing question is: in a world where most teenagers happily share the most intimate details of their lives on social media, what need do they have for a documentary confessional? Some moments do feel quite staged – those at parties, for example, resemble reconstructed drama – but otherwise the girls appear relaxed and honest. They discuss their parents’ separation and eviction, their first sexual experiences and orientation, and their self-harming. By the end you feel one of them, something for which director Gage deserves a lot of credit. It feels unlikely that the girls’ revelations would have been quite so candid or heartfelt without her influence. The nostalgia for youth is a powerful lure, but All This Panic’s greatest appeal is in the entertaining, empathetic and warm way these personal sagas are told.
So, how much insight can you really get from a bunch of teenage girls? Turns out, quite a lot. They may not be unique or new thoughts, but they say a lot about what it means to come of age in the modern world.
CAST: Lena M, Ginger Leigh Ryan, Dusty Rose Ryan, Delia Cunningham, Sage Adams, Olivia Cucinotta, Nichole R. Thompson-Adams (all as themselves)
DIRECTOR: Jenny Gage
SYNOPSIS: Shot over a three-year period with unparalleled intimacy and access, All This Panic is a feature-length documentary that takes an intimate look at the interior lives of a group of teenage girls as they come of age in Brooklyn. A potent mix of vivid portraiture and vérité, we follow the girls as they navigate the ephemeral and fleeting transition between childhood and adulthood.