In this documentary, first-time director Jenny Gage reveals many of the anxieties and joys of being a teenager today. At first glance, there is nothing unusual about these girls – in fact, many of their concerns seem to echo the same ones that have been well rehearsed in the American imaginary ever since the 80’s and its popular John Hughes’ movies. Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about them is how seemingly comfortable they appear in front of the camera, which should actually come as no surprise considering the extent technology has permeated into most of their lives.
All This Panic follows a group of girl friends--Lena, Ginger, and a few others--going through the motions of growing up in Brooklyn, acting as a confidant to many of their desires and worries as they attempt to navigate both the universal struggles young adulthood and the particularities of their personal lives. For instance, Lena struggles with several family issues when starting college as she attempts to maintain her high school friendships, forge new ones, and pursue what seems to be one of her greatest wish: finding a boyfriend. Her best friend Ginger deals with not going to college and fears of being left behind, besides juggling her social life with her aspirations of becoming an actress. Sage copes with the recent passing away of her father and with the racial politics of being one of the few black students going to a predominantly white private school. Olivia grapples mainly with discovering her sexuality and coming out. In general, the documentary’s plurality of voices might be one of the main features that render it so straightforward and honest.
At times, the movie can be slightly suffocating due to its intimate disclosures and uncomfortable situations often involving parents, all carefully modulated through narrow close-ups that vividly capture their emotions. As is commonly portrayed in many youth stories, the generational gap in All This Panic is made evident in their often frustrating interactions with their parents as the girls fail to meet their families' expectations.
Overall, the documentary legitimizes many of the girls’ concerns, countering any attempts at dismissing these through trite generalizations about millennial teenage girls. Even if their confessions might simply reinforce staple concerns that have been expressed in other tween classics like The Breakfast Club, the documentary endorses the stories Lena, Ginger, and their friends want to share as it grants them individual attention. All This Panic is a determined coming of age story that validates the oft-maligned teenage angst, despite (or precisely because of) the protagonists’ Tumblr-ish aesthetics of meticulously calculated rebelliousness.