Director Jenny Gage weaves a gorgeous, lyrical piece of nonfiction cinema out of intimate confessions and urban landscapes in the documentary “All This Panic.” The film is a tone poem, a watercolor portrait, a snapshot of youth following the lives of a group of teenage girls growing up in Brooklyn.
Aesthetically, the film looks and feels like a narrative indie movie, but the girls on screen are all too real, squabbling with their siblings, navigating the tricky transitions into sex, drugs and drinking, all while clawing out a personal identity for themselves.
In the high-stakes world of teenagers, the stakes are elevated when those teens have all of New York City at their feet. The girls seem impossibly young, and at times, impossibly wise beyond their years, wrestling with family issues, mental health, money, sexuality, death and hardest of all, life itself.
Gage and cinematographer Tom Betterton were granted incredible access to the lives of these girls and respect that trust. They never shy away from the tough or unflattering moments, and capture many vulnerable and soul-bearing moments. The dreams and insecurities and struggles of these girls are specific, and so universal. “All This Panic” is a deeply felt tribute to youth but also to growing up; it’s a time capsule of a fleeting, fragile moment when angst is mixed with beauty and everything seems ripe with potential.
‘All This Panic’
Running time: 1 hour, 19 minutes
Playing: Arena Cinelounge Las Palmas, Hollywood; Arena Cinelounge, Santa Monica