I Am Not Okay with This is a seven part coming-of-age / superhero tale produced by Netflix, based on the comic book of the same name by Charles Forsman.
Sydney Novak (Sophia Lillis) lives with her mother, Maggie (Kathleen Rose Perkins), and younger brother, Liam (Aidan Wojtak-Hissong), in Pennsylvania – in a town with “corn and cabbage and shit”. Following the suicide of her father, the family is trying to get back on their feet as their lives start to get back to normal, or as normal as they can be after such an event.
Sydney describes herself as boring and is coping with the usual awkwardness and isolation and self-discovery that comes with being a typical 17-year-old, albeit compounded by her grief. Sydney also discovers she is able to move, and frequently destroy, objects around her with her mind. Brought on by distress, the level of destruction is always proportionate to how angry or upset she is.
Sydney has two friends, Dina (Sofia Bryant) and Stan (Wyatt Oleff). Dina has helped her through tough times and Sydney is struggling with the realisation that she has romantic feelings for her. While Stan lives down the street, and in turn, has feelings for Sydney.
To its great advantage I Am Not Okay with This has only seven episodes to its name and thus sets itself up as a perfect midweek TV snack or single afternoon binge. It avoids getting bogged down in mid-series filler, as is often the problem with some of Netflix’s longer running series, and the story is tight and lean and motors along at a brisk pace, without any mucking about.
In some ways I Am Not Okay with This brings to mind the first season of Stranger Things (which was also produced by Shawn Levy, director of Real Steel and Night At the Museum) as both give us inventive, exciting tales of growing up within a supernatural context. Although I Am Not Okay with This definitely has a darker, more cryptic centre.
As a coming-of-age tale, I Am Not Okay with This stands or falls on the strength of its central characters and the way in which they deal with the problems we all face when growing up – sexuality, popularity, family, responsibility and… telekinesis. Sophia Lillis, Wyatt Oleff and Sofia Bryant are all excellent.
Lillis is particularly great throughout and in a serendipitous piece of casting, actually looks a bit like Kathleen Rose Perkins, who plays her mother Maggie. Although their relationship is made believable by the two excellent performances from the actors, this similarity is the icing on the cake. Their frazzled relationship feels very real as they butt heads over their respective responsibilities, combined with typical parent / teenager friction.
Interestingly, creator Charles S. Forsman is also well known for writing The End of the F***ing World, which was turned into a series by Netflix, and in a nice Easter Egg for the fans, that show is shown to exist the same universe as I Am Not Okay with This. There are also affectionate references to several coming-of-age classics throughout the series – from the gymnasium detention that can’t help but remind us of The Breakfast Club, to episode four’s marvellous pun Stan by Me, and a recurring opening sequence that riffs heavily on De Palma’s iconic Carrie.
Furthermore we get original music by Blur’s Graham Coxon and an eclectically curated soundtrack that stamps itself into scenes in the same dynamic manner as you might expect from Scorsese or Tarantino; the music is as much a part of what’s being said as the dialogue.
The series concludes, cleverly, in a way that leaves some threads dangling and others very satisfactorily resolved. Adhering closely to that old showbiz maxim to always leave the audience wanting more, you’ll be clamouring for I Am Not Okay with This season 2 as soon as those credits roll.
SCREEN REALM SCORE: ★★★★✩
‘I Am Not Okay with This’ can be streamed on Netflix right HERE.