“It’s just one of those things when you expect something to be amazing and perfect and it’s not.”
Those words are spoken by 16-year-old Lena in Jenny Gage’s gorgeous slice of life documentary, All This Panic, as she describes the feeling of liking a boy who didn’t like her back. Never mind that, though; aren’t they a perfect encapsulation of the teenage existence more generally? Lena is just one of a handful of teenage female subjects that Gage and her cinematographer husband Tom Betterton stumble upon in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn; the experiences of whom make up this exquisite debut feature.
Lena, socially forward but with a struggling family life, is joined by sisters Ginger and Dusty, Gage and Betterton’s neighbours, the elder of which has little concept of where she wants her life to go and confesses to being “petrified of getting old”; Sage, a rare African American student at a prestigious Manhattan school whose outspoken attitude is coupled with an internal battle between her class status and her face; and Olivia, who confides to the camera about her sexuality before she ever would her parents.