Magazine article Screen International

My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea': Toronto Review

Magazine article Screen International

My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea': Toronto Review

Article excerpt

Dir/scr: Dash Shaw. US. 2016. 77mins

For many sufferers, teenage angst can feel as urgent and cataclysmic as a post-apocalyptic event. Writer-director Dash Shaw makes that dilemma literal in his amusing feature debut, a lively animated film that mixes high-school insecurity with the death toll of a disaster film. My Entire High School Sinking Into The Sea is slight and uneven, but its quirky, handmade aesthetic nicely conveys its characters' adolescent vulnerability and restless spirit.

Premiering in Toronto's Vanguard section, My Entire High School will court buyers via a hip voice cast which includes Jason Schwartzman, Reggie Watts, Maya Rudolph, Lena Dunham and Susan Sarandon. Shaw's background as a celebrated cartoonist and graphic novelist will also serve as a selling point as well, with his first feature having all the hallmarks of a cult curio sought out by fans of left-of-centre animation.

As the film begins, teen best friends Dash (Schwartzman) and Assaf (Watts) are dorky outcasts at Tides High, busy putting together their self-published high school newspaper when a wedge is driven between them: Their editor Verti (Rudolph) has developed feelings for Assaf, making Dash feel like the third wheel on their small editorial staff. But Dash's jealousy is soon replaced by terror when an earthquake hits their California school, sending the building tumbling into the Pacific Ocean.

Drawn over the course of six years - and supervised by lead animator Jane Samborski - My Entire High School is more visually impressive than it is narratively arresting. Only clocking in at 77 minutes, Shaw's film doesn't have much that's new to say about first love, male rivalry, cliques or the drudgery of high school. But even when the jokes fall a bit flat or the storytelling falters, the animation contains enough drama and surprises to compensate.

The movie varies its look, occasionally aspiring to the dark contours of a graphic novel while at other times evoking the wistfulness of a watercolour painting or the kaleidoscopic, hypnotic pleasures of a cartoon acid trip. …

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