Everything Sucks! in this day and age but Netflix’s new series does not.
Growing up in Australia and attending an Australian high school is a completely different experience to life as portrayed in American high schools. Life doesn’t revolve around extra curricular activities and there’s not much room for someone to truly discover their own self until they leave for University and experience a whole new aspect of life.
Going into Everything Sucks is like experiencing a case of culture shock. There’s barely any scenes set in a class room with actual learning taking place, but rather the high school is just a backdrop to funnel this coming of age story and it works. The setting allows itself to revolve around the characters instead, and gives them freedom to be more than just students in a high school.
There is an element of unoriginality to the series, thanks to familiar territory that has been covered by other high school stories. The geeky underdogs finding their footing in high school feels like something ripped from Freaks and Geeks while the Drama club students find ways to terrorise other students plays out in an over the top fashion. But despite all of this there is a breath of freshness to the series thanks to the excellent cinematography and the handling of delicate subject matter that was rarely seen in high school dramedies from this era.
The series is set primarily at a high school in Boring, Oregon during 1996 and follows the A/V club and the Drama club as they collide together when making a film. Opening on the first day of school, Luke O’Neil (Jahi Winston), McQuaid (Rio Mangini), and Tyler Bowen (Quinn Leibing), are eager to get their start in the A/V club in the hopes of meeting girls. It is in this club that we meet Kate Messner (Peyton Kennedy), who Luke quickly grows fond of. The series villains are introduced as the Drama club members Emaline (Sydney Sweeney) and Oliver (Elijah Stevenson) as they torment not only Kate and Luke but each other in their quest to find drama in every interaction. However, as the series progresses and we get to know more about these characters it is easy to forget their origins as we delve deep into what makes these characters tick, especially in the final few episodes.
The final half of the season introduced a subplot featuring the parents of Luke and Kate, Sherry O’Neil (Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako) and Ken Messner (Patch Darragh) respectively, in a subplot which drives the action of the last few episodes of the season and is earnest and beautiful.
At the beginning of the series, viewers are put into the shoes of a freshman as they navigate the treacherous waters of High School and the show deals with the themes of first love, loss, sexuality, fear, and self discovery. The series is carefully crafted, from the gorgeous cinematography right down to the soundtrack which perfectly captures life in the ‘90’s. We are now twenty-two years removed from when the series takes place, however the themes and stories of the characters transcend the era in which the show is set and resonates with audiences today.
Cinematographer Elisha Christian’s consistent style and flair of the camera work is greatly appreciated. The placement of the camera in key scenes feels gorgeously intimate, as does the slow push in as the characters explore their feelings and budding romance. Director Michael Mohan is excellent at conveying what it feels like to be back at the start of high school, and manages to elicit excellent performances out of the young actors. Peyton Kennedy especially delivers a heart wrenching monologue at the end of the penultimate episode and the final 10 minutes of the season alone contain some wonderful performances from each character and shows the series isn’t afraid of committing to a pay-off.
Everything Sucks! launched on Netflix on February 16th 2018. The first season contains ten half hour instalments which makes for easy binging.