REVIEW: We’re All Going to the World’s Fair (2021)

dir. Jane Schoebrun

Director Schoebrun‘s feature debut taps into something very primal in us all: a need to belong, and find our place in the world. But what happens when the world, in all its glory and horror, is merely a click away?

Late one cold night teenager Casey (Anna Cobb) decides to take the World’s Fair Challenge and embrace the uncertainty it promises. After the initiation, she documents the changes that may – or may not – be happening to her, adding her experiences to the shuffle of online clips available for the world to see.

Viral challenges are increasingly popular; a quick scroll through TikTok or Instagram and you’ll find the latest trends: new dance routines, the latest eating craze and sometimes… something altogether more sinister.

We’re All Going To The World’s Fair operates within this space; somewhere between Creepy Pasta and r/nosleep. The challenge is a simple one but promises an uncertain and transcendent fate, something Casey is undeniably drawn to – escaping the mundanity and boredom of her everyday life. She’s young and impressionable, at the cusp of womanhood and desperately searching for her identity. Think Eighth Grade but make it spooky.

The film runs like an endless scroll of auto-played YouTube videos; like when you’re in that fugue state too lazy to move, to stop the never-ending barrage of content filling the screen and illuminating the room. That curation is solely at the hands of an algorithm that can’t decipher the difference between danger and entertainment.

Casey so desperately wants something to happen; so trivial and seemingly innocuous videos are uploaded on a near daily basis. People are viewing them, and it feels good to be seen. Whether it’s 2,000,000 views or 2, people are acknowledging her existence and her experience.

When you put yourself out there on the internet you have no control over who sees it. You cannot control what they feel or think. Some adore, some wish to destroy. Casey’s journey through the dark parts of the web proves too much for her. Coming of age shouldn’t look like this; she has no friends to speak of, her father is absent and it’s in this lonely spiral she meets an anonymous online fan, JLB. Their dynamic is troubling from the outset, and Casey’s yearning for acceptance leads her to allow this stranger to become part of her life.

Schoenbrun assuredly portrays this ambiguous sadness and desire for belonging. The film leaves you in an air of unease and the unknown: to know that true horror – or true acceptance – could be just one click away.

⭐⭐⭐

Brad Hanson

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