There’s nothing particularly new about the ‘puberty as superpowers’ trope, but where most of those takes lean into the supernatural elements, it’s rare to see a show where a character is just as concerned with her weird zits as she is with her burgeoning psychic powers. But that’s where I Am Not Okay With This’ interests lie: not in Syd’s abilities, but in all the other difficult teenage aspects of her life.
IANOWT centres on Syd (Sophia Lillis), an awkward 16-year-old grieving for her father and beginning to develop confusing feelings for her best friend Dina (Sofia Bryant), while trying to side-step the affections of neighbour Stan (Wyatt Oleff). Syd is not a clean-cut heroine – she’s angry, rude, and often dismissive of others’ feelings, but she’s also just lonely and starved of love, and making the same mistakes all teenagers make. Plus, she experiences telekinetic outbursts whenever she gets upset or stressed, so we can cut her some slack.
Lillis is brilliant as Syd, which will come as no surprise to anyone who has seen It. She brings to life all of Syd’s more unflattering aspects with the emotional honesty you’d expect from her. More of a revelation is Oleff, one of the more underused It kids, who here demonstrates some serious comedy and dramatic chops as a character who is simultaneously charismatic and awkward, confident and vulnerable. Bryant rounds the central threesome out nicely as the sweet new girl beginning to feel the pull of the glamourous cool kids.
The show has a nostalgic visual style, with fashion nods to the Nineties and minimal modern tech, which fits its tone perfectly – somewhere between the exuberant John Hughes movies of the Eighties and the grungy teen angst shows of the Nineties. The superpowers are visually impressive – this show has Netflix money behind it, after all – but director Entwistle and writer Hall never let the superpowers hijack the story. This is a funny, moving, and gripping story that’s over far too soon, and is crying out for a Season Two.