Teendom’s tumultuousness may lend itself to big-screen clichés, but All This Panic — a documentary that follows a group of NYC high-school girlfriends over the course of three years — digs deeper to reveal the rawness, confusion, fear, aimlessness, and euphoria of that most turbulent of times. Eschewing narration or even title cards to indicate when and where the action is taking place, director Jenny Gage and cinematographer Tom Betterton’s sterling vérité work segues freely among its young women, who find themselves coping with (and expressing unfiltered opinions about) volatile family lives, uncertainty over their collegiate futures, sexual anxieties and pressures, and drug and alcohol use.
There’s no judgment to be found here, only an unvarnished look at its subjects struggling to figure out who they are, what they want, and how they might achieve their goals. In the figures of boyfriend-craving Lena and her wayward childhood BFF Ginger — the former dealing with psychologically and residentially unstable parents, the latter a wannabe-actress adrift as her friends move on to college — the filmmakers capture an especially vivid, idiosyncratic sense of the various factors weighing upon kids as they begin to enter adulthood. Unconstrained by the need for a neat-and-tidy dramatic arc, All This Panic opts for messy honesty — and, in the process, finds hope for all of its subjects, in ways both big and small.
All This Panic
Directed by Jenny Gage
Opens March 31, IFC Center