It seems like the top three ingredients for a Netflix show are a vintage look — either reminiscent to a decade long ago (see Sex Education) or set in said decade (see Stranger Things) — a charismatic lead (or leads) and obviously, a good mix of humor and suspense. It worked with the examples mentioned above, and it works with one of Netflix’s newest creations, I Am Not Okay With This. Created and directed by Jonathan Entwistle, I Am Not Okay With This is based on the comic book of the same name by Charles Forsman and tells the story of Sydney Novak (played by IT and IT Chapter Two star Sophia Lillis), who on top of struggling through her daily life as a teen, discovers she has some kind of magic powers. So far, the show has one season with seven episodes, with more to come in the future, hopefully.
From here on there will be spoilers, so proceed with caution!
I Am Not Okay With This opens with a blood-covered Sydney walking down the street and her voiceover saying “Dear Diary, go f*** yourself”, which is a good way to describe the tone of the series. There is no censoring in this show, the audience gets Sydney’s unfiltered, dry sense of humor and a big dash of self-deprecation as a running commentary of the events. Sophia Lillis’ performance as Sydney is brilliant, to say the least. We empathize with her from the first minute and her journey of self-discovery and her struggle make her relatable on more than one level, even for people who haven’t been teenagers in a long time. Sydney, however, isn’t the only interesting character in her show. There’s her best friend Dina (played by Sofia Bryant, who has starred in The Good Wife, among others), who – to Sydney’s despair – starts dating the captain of the football team and doesn’t know that despite her superpowers, Sydney is also discovering more-than-platonic feelings for her. There’s also Stanley Barber (played by Wyatt Oleff, who has starred in Guardians Of The Galaxy and also in IT), a strange, eccentric neighbor of Sydney’s whose crush is sadly not reciprocated. All these characters face their own struggles and deal with them in different ways, not all of them are magic.
What I liked about the show was how well-paced it was. I could have watched it in one sitting (I may have, actually) because I was so invested in the story from the beginning. Sydney is a highly relatable character for everyone who has ever felt disconnected and out of place, and also for people who are not aware of their own strength (quite literally) or their effect on others. She struggles with her dad’s death, with her powers, with her feelings for Dina and she does so in a way that makes you feel connected with her from the get-go.
Like every teenager, Sydney gets angry. However, when she gets angry, things break. Or noses bleed. Or trees get uprooted. The way her anger manifests itself is cathartic to everyone who has ever wanted to scream until all their grievances and frustrations disappear into thin air. Sydney’s anger doesn’t just vanish, it multiplies. She does things that are scary, like admitting her feelings for her best friend or her lack of attraction to Stanley. She also bottles up her other emotions until she – or something else – explodes. The first season shows a lot of potential for future seasons, especially with ending on a “cliffhanger”, which might have been a tiny bit predictable, but so far Netflix hasn’t commented on whether there will be a second (or third) season.
Like Entwistle’s other project The End Of The F***ing World, I Am Not Okay With This manages to capture the true essence of entertainment by creating characters and stories that are anything but glamorous or polished, that manage to show struggles and a healthy dose of cynicism. I highly recommend the show to anyone who doesn’t know what to watch on a rainy weekend or who has an evening to kill, because I promise, you will not be okay with turning this off.