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  • Jennifer Green

Review: "Turtles All the Way Down"

This drama based on popular author John Green's novel is an emotional rendering of mental illness, and its young leads offer a very sympathetic portrayal of teenagerhood.


Co-star Cree is especially fun as the fast-talking Daisy in Turtles All the Way Down. She complements Merced's withdrawn, wide-eyed Aza. It's no easy task for a young actor to wordlessly emote as much as Merced is asked to here. Her spirals into panic are voiced over by internal monologue, and they're visualized as flashes of light and images of what she's worrying about (bacteria) combined with screeching noises.


Whether the depiction rings true for you could depend on your own experience, but it's an effective way to convey the distress that the character repeatedly feels.


Though this is certainly the epicenter of the story, the film also weaves in romance, a mystery, and a lot of everyday teen experiences. The latter are the most fun, real parts of the film as viewers watch Merced and Cree rock out in the car, shoot the breeze over burgers at Applebee's (purchased with a coupon, always), or banter in the school cafeteria.


Repeat viewings would help catch more of the witty asides, as when Aza googles "cute things to text a boy," or Daisy quips, "You don't have to wait for a boy to ask you out -- what are you, a handmaiden?"


One quibble: A disproportionate number of teen movies seem to have millionaire characters who are able to whisk friends away on a private jet or host blow-out pool parties at their parents' mansions. It undermines the connection viewers might feel with these otherwise relatively realistic characters.

 

Read the full review at Common Sense Media.

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