You will be hard-pressed to find a film that portrays isolation effectively and unsettlingly as We’re All Going To The World’s Fair does. Jane Schoenbrun’s psychological horror hits harder than you ever expect it to, thanks to a terrific turn from Anna Cobb. A fantastic debut feature.
Alone in her attic bedroom, teenager Casey (Anna Cobb) becomes immersed in an online role-playing horror game, wherein she begins to document the changes that may or may not be happening to her.
Casey is alone, very alone, and has resorted to filming herself to record the World’s Fair Challenge. What becomes abundantly clear in Jane Schoenbrun’s film is that Casey needs someone to connect with. She is desperate for any form of connection as she works out who she is and the lure of a challenge that changes you in some form is all too appealing to the impressionable teen. When she finds that someone is watching her content, the changes soon come forward.
With We’re All Going To The World’s Fair, writer-director Schoenbrun brilliantly analyses young teens’ loss of connection and their overreliance on videos and social media to keep a hold of something tangible to them. We all know someone who uses meditation or music to go to sleep and consider it practically the norm. However, with Casey, she has to use a video of a softly spoken person pretending to pet her and calm her to go to sleep. She needs more help than what the internet can bring her and is so reliant on it that she doesn’t understand her journey.
Schoenbrun makes some very interesting and frankly bold decisions here. When the film would usually be ramping up the suspense, We’re All Going To The World’s Fair keeps the pacing slow. Allowing us as the audience to increasingly feel unsettled. It is quite a wonderful technique to subvert expectations of what we should expect from the film, and here it works well. This slow, build absorbing pace never relents, which in truth will make or break how you feel about the overall piece.
Our writer-director also decides not to spoon-feed their audience instead of letting us pick up the pieces of the story as her unsettling puzzle slowly reveals itself. Continuous long takes pull us in, with the opening being so wonderfully effective at setting the unnerving tone of the film. However, there is an intent to wear the audience down with some snail-paced scenes. As if she wants us to feel isolated ourselves as we experience the film, to be as close as possible to our protagonist’s shoes.
Wisely we are given shots in the arm that bring a visceral shudder. When JLB (Michael J. Rogers) first gets in contact with Casey, you feel so uneasy that you don’t know it is him, but anyone messaging a child who is clearly going through something is unsettling. Adding into that how he messages her and amps up all of the alarms in your head for her. We’re All Going To The World’s Fair takes these moments and allows them to get under your skin literally. The film confidently finds an atmosphere that works and never treads away from it. Hooking us in with the greatest of eases until it has had its fill of us.
Anna Cobb is utterly fantastic as Casey; for the most part, she has to tell everything through her facial features as long scenes play out with little dialogue. There is a vulnerability in her performance that many a seasoned actor would struggle to obtain. As she delves down the rabbit hole, hoping that she transforms into something more than her current self, we begin to see Schoenbrun’s true intentions of her film.
We’re All Going to The World’s Fair will probably be a pretty polarising film; it falls into the success category for us simply due to how effective it is, thanks to Cobb’s performance. There is an awful lot to love in the film, and with Schoenbrun, we have a strong and confident new voice as a filmmaker. One that will only go from strength to strength.
We’re All Going To The World’s Fair arrives in UK cinemas from April 29, Digital Download May 9 and Blu-ray 23rd May. Book your tickets and pre-order your copy here: https://linktr.ee/worldsfair
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