On the surface, the opening scene of We’re All Going to the World’s Fair bears more than a few similarities with 2018’s Eighth Grade: the awkward teenager, alone in her bedroom, delivering a stilted video to her webcam and online watchers. Yet where Eighth Grade follows the more conventional path of the coming-of-age genre, We’re All Going to the World’s Fair strikes out in a far more unsettling direction. By the time main character Casey has stabbed her finger repeatedly with a pin, eyes not breaking from the camera, it is clear you are in for a creepy cinematic journey full of brave filmmaking and dread-laden atmosphere.
Juggling themes of identity, transgenderism and the Internet, Jane Schoenbrun’s feature film directorial debut is a unique body of work. After deciding to take the World’s Fair Challenge – a mysterious online horror game with an uncertain outcome – Casey’s life, which is one of loneliness and is limited to either her attic bedroom or the snowy landscape of a random US neighbourhood, begins to distort as she loses a grip on what is real and what is fiction. Her story is interspersed with vignettes from other online players, all equally warped by the Internet’s hold over them. Schoenbrun’s screenplay isn’t always adept at drawing these themes together into something fully cohesive, nor is the film’s narrative consistently compelling, but the toxicity and loneliness that drenches every scene of We’re All Going to the World’s Fair is as terrifying as the dense Internet world it’s portraying.
We’re All Going to the World’s Fair is a strong debut, hinting at a unique and intelligent voice ready to break out into the filmic world. Anna Cobb’s performance as Casey is further evidence of the start of something special, as she delivers an entrancing performance, one that is full of monologues and even a weird dance delivered straight to the camera. She finds time to be that awkward teenager, but also adds in layers of uncertainty on her identity and isolation. For the most part, We’re All Going to the World’s Fair is a suitably creepy journey with some memorable imagery, and by the end it warps into something beautiful about acceptance, both of oneself and of others.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Jane Schoenbrun
STARS: Anna Cobb, Michael J Rogers
RUNTIME: 86 minutes