By Chris Dos Santos
16th June 2024

The media we consume as teenagers, arguably, affects us more than what we take in as a child. What we watch as a child teaches us morals, but when we are in our adolescence, we are looking for something to identify with. This media helps us to learn about who we are - and for queer kids especially it's something we latch onto. For me it was 'Glee', for my first real exposure to any kind of queer characters that weren't a cheap joke. It taught me about a world I never knew about and, at times in my teenage years, felt more familiar than the world I was living in. 'I Saw the TV Glow' captures that same feeling.

'I Saw the TV Glow' follows Owen (Ian Foreman) in Year 7. He is very isolated with a lack of friends, and his home life is not ideal. He sees ads for a young adult show called 'The Pink Opaque' and wants to watch, but it airs at 10:30pm which is past his bedtime. He meets Maddy (Brigette Lundy-Paine, 'Bombshell', 'Bill & Ted Face the Music') and gets invited to her house to watch an episode, and is instantly captivated by it. The film jumps forward two years and Owen (Justice Smith, 'Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves', 'Pokémon Detective Pikachu') still can't watch the show, but Maddy tapes it for him. As they watch more and more episodes, they realise these characters are closer to themselves than they think.


'I Saw the TV Glow' is being marketed as a horror, and I went in purely with that knowledge. While yes, I would say this is a horror film, it's not in the conventional sense, and that took me a while to understand. Upon reflecting on Jane Schoenbrun's second feature as a director, the film's core message lies below the surface. Film is a medium where no matter the intent, we will take our own interpretation of it. One of the real successes of 'I Saw the TV Glow' is that journey the film takes the audience on; it doesn't hold your hand but also isn't forcing a viewpoint on you. If you scroll through a site like Letterboxd, you can read thousands of stories about how this film affected people from so many walks of life, and that's the real success of it. If you know Schoenbrun then their personal reading will of course come to light but the beauty of film as a whole is what the audience takes away from it, and there is no better modern example of that than this.

Film is a medium where no matter the intent, we will take our own interpretation of it.

My connection to the film is that of using media as a sense of both comfort and to also teach me about the world. A film doesn't only transport me to a different location but also showcases different walks of life. When I think back to my teenage years and the media I consumed it's where I began to develop who I am, and that's why this medium is such a passion to me.

'I Saw the TV Glow' may disappoint horror fans due to its unconventional approach to genre but for those who connect to it, it will be one of their most profound cinema experiences this year. From its stellar performances to dazing visuals, 'I Saw the TV Glow' is one of the most important films of the year.

Looking for more Sydney Film Festival reviews? Click here to check out our collection of this year's highlights.
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