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Not Okay Film Review: is It Worth the Watch?

Pop Culture

August 20, 2022

Heartthrobs Dylan O'Brien and Zoey Deutch star in the new film “Not Okay." Is it truly as "cringe" as social media has made it out to be? Well, rest assured, I’ve taken one for the team and recently viewed the film. While I understand the harsh critiques, I also understand that it was a film meant for a level of mocking both our proclaimed phases and trends, as well as this generation's obsession with the social media craze.

Unlike many films, the characters were made to be hated. While we rooted for a happy ending and plenty of character development, we didn’t see either of those things. On the surface, we see a sense of "silliness" and a lighthearted film, but beneath the levels of mocking our digital age, there are quite a handful of sensitive topics that the film touched on.

The Point Is To Hate the Characters

Director Quinn Shepard has stated that everyone's takeaway from the film was that the characters were unlikeable. This was the point. Zoey Deutch plays the role of Danni Sanders, an aspiring writer who would do anything to get ahead.

So much so that she used her skills as a photo editor to fake an entire trip to Paris, only to be caught up in an even bigger lie than she could imagine. As she sat in her New York apartment editing photos for social media, she hit "post" at the same time a terrorist attack occurred. The jigs up, it’s time to come clean now… right?

Well, that wasn't quite the case. The sheer stupidity of her actions led her to fame, promotions, and followers, as well as intense viewers' hatred towards her. Dylan O'Brien’s character is no sweetheart either.

O’Brien plays Colin, the self-absorbed, heartless coworker that quite frankly made me switch from being excited seeing my favorite actor on the screen to annoyed to hear him speak. That only shows how incredible these actors are though, from the range in which they can play roles we adore to roles we simply can’t stand.

Deeper meaning

Now, beyond the surface of this film, it touches on (to be truthful) quite dark subjects. The main theme built around this film is the subject of trauma, and learning to cope after experiencing gun violence and terrorist attacks. While we see the main character Danni Sanders fake her way through support groups and conversations surrounding PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), the producers give insight into these topics in this day in age. Unfortunately, the world as we know isn’t as peaceful as we’d like, and headlines of shootings and attacks keep popping up more often.

In a generation of activism, especially amongst young adults and teenagers, I think it was a great decision to include the character Rowan Aldren (played by Mia Isaac), who is cast as a school shooting survivor and young activist. While not entirely realistic to other survivors' experiences with dealing with trauma, it’s the beginning of a vital conversation. The portrayal had the correct intent of making my heart drop and become saddened by some of the scenes and conversations that were had.

Incidents like school shootings, especially in the United States, are becoming more frequent. For as much as it sickens me to write this, it’s the unfortunate truth. Sparking up conversations surrounding these topics and the consequences they have among survivors, especially in film and the media, are important to bring up.

As the film sheds light on our obsession with likes, comments, and reposts, it also presents the beginning of conversations in the film industry about dark issues from a modern-day perspective. This film, disliked or liked, sparks discussion and either way brings much-needed awareness to this generation.

Not only do we see trauma-related issues being brought up, but Danni also shows signs of suffering from depression and taking pills to treat her depressive episodes. There's a lot more to unpack when you analyze the movie. Did she have problems with her parents growing up? Did she suffer from an undiagnosed mental disorder?

Is it as "cringe" as it seems?

If you’ve seen the previews of it anywhere on social media, then you’ll very well know that it wasn’t presented the best. Well, we know that it more than likely won't be an Oscar-nominated production. In my honest opinion, some parts were hard to sit through in the sense of being cringe.

Keep in mind that was the intent of the film though. Even at the start, it says the production includes an “unlikeable female protagonist.” The movie features trends that were only popular a few years ago. Fashion, nail art, and phrases that were all evidently popular on social media have all faded away and have been replaced.

A New Meaning To "Forgive and Forget"

I’m used to very predictable endings, but I’ll spill this once and say that I was not expecting the movie to end there. Most movies we view have happy endings where there's a solution, a fixture, and forgiveness. This ending had me saying “What?

That's the end?” Not that it wasn’t a good ending, it was just one that many of us wouldn’t expect. The ending shows Danni about to apologize to Rowan at her spoken word performance, but comes to realize that she had too much guilt after hearing that she got up and left. Not what you’d expect, right?

While we’d all wish for a happier ending, it was the ending that better suited the film's message. The damage Danni caused was far too big for an apology to mend the connection between her and Rowan. Instead of making amends, it was better to accept the guilt, accept that her actions finally caught up with her, and get up to leave Rowan's world.

"Not Okay" sheds light on rather funny topics but also some deep and meaningful ones. The characters and their choices aren’t meant to be liked or glorified; rather, they're meant to be observed. The messages and themes are taken by the audience as they watch and develop their own opinion as the credits begin to roll. I sense this film is already becoming overly disliked, but it is worth watching from a thematic perspective.

Mia Bennett
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Writer since May, 2020 · 40 published articles

Mia Bennett is a writer based in Auckland, New Zealand. Striving to work as a Journalist in her life she is passionate about beauty, fashion, wellness and keeping up with the latest celebrity news.