There are many factors that go into the shaping of character. They can be regional, economic or even genetic. Specifically for young women, the process we go through in order to form ours can be overwhelming as we’re astutely, inherently in tune to the pressures put on us. Sure, puberty acts as the opening act to the second biggest transitional phase (second to menopause?) we women go through – the giant step up from teenagedom to young adulthood. Mistakes are made. Learning curves are ridden. Experimentations are encouraged. But through it all, our prior experiences inform some of these critical decisions. Director Jenny Gage’s documentary reminds us what youth was like, capturing a critical time in the lives of a small group of young women raised in Brooklyn. It’s cinéma vérité guided by the often confusing and chaotic experience of growing up.
Of the handful of young women Gage sets her lens on over the three year transitional period between high school and college, a few stand out. All of these ladies have different journeys: Lena has a bright future, but her family’s problems are understandably weighing her down. Ginger is a walking dichotomy – afraid to age, yet happily rushing towards what she naively perceives as the freedom of adulthood. Her younger sister Dusty yearns for them to be better friends; they’re often seen verbally sparring, but connected at the hip. Ivy is the magnetic, popular, cool girl who owns whatever space she’s in, whether that be at a rock concert or goth party. Delia is the social butterfly who says the phrase that is this documentary’s aptly-named title. The fact that “all this panic” was stated in reference to girls deciding what outfit to wear is befitting of the teenage mindset – and what emotionally happens during this time. Olivia is the quiet, unassuming gal who’s questioning her sexuality and the effect it might have on her future. And Sage is hyper-alert of society’s views towards teen women, stating, “People want to see you, but they don’t want to hear you.”
Clocking in at a brisk 79 minutes doesn’t allow for a lot of development of the topics these young ladies talk about. Progressive parenting, girl-code politicking, sex, love, responsibilities, parties, alcohol, and friendships are all solid aspects discussed. While there’s profundity and cutting insight, it at times feels a little lacking where those ideas could be further developed. Heartbreaking situations are glossed over at too rapid a pace – especially in Lena’s case. I would rather have seen more time given to fewer “characters.” But what probably resonated with me the most were the parental lectures from both Ginger’s dad and Sage’s mom – mostly because yeah, been there. Time spent in those moments is used wisely. The eye rolls and overly dramatic verbal and physical outbursts from the girls also gifted me with flashbacks to my own teen years. (Side note: I’m sorry, Mom and Dad).
ALL THIS PANIC will open up a door, or maybe even a window, to the remembrance that we were all young once – even those we consider “the youth.” We shouldn’t devalue their journey because they are “too young.” We should be there to help form their character-building experience.
ALL THIS PANIC is now playing in New York. It opens on April 14 at the Arena in Hollywood.