‘I Am Not Okay with This’ sprinkles coming-of age-drama with telepathic powers

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Netflix

Sophia Lillis is once again drenched in blood, but this time a killer clown is the least of her problems. 

“I Am Not Okay With This” is a new Netflix series from director Jonathan Entwistle (“The End of the F***ing World”) based on the graphic novel by Charles Forsman. The seven-episode show follows high schooler Sydney as she struggles to deal with a distracted best friend, the weird kid next door, school bullies, a nagging mom and her increasingly violent telepathic powers. 

Sophia Lillis and Wyatt Oleff share the screen yet again only months after starring together in “It Chapter Two.” It takes a couple of episodes to accept these performances as new characters — it doesn’t help that Oleff’s character shares the same name as his “IT” counterpart — but eventually audiences will see them as their own. Lillis is a powerhouse in the role of Sydney. Her deadpan delivery, physical comedy and overall presence sufficiently convey the character’s unique personality. She plays fantastically off of the other characters as she showcases a vast variety of moods. 

Oleff’s Stanley is excessively quirky, conveying a sense of awkward affection toward characters he shares scenes with. At times it seems that he is overacting a bit when it comes to the “quirky weird kid” aesthetic. Regardless, Lillis and Oleff have great chemistry, and that certainly shines through in their performances. 

The supporting cast is consistently intriguing throughout. Aidan Wojtak-Hissong is just as innocent and lovable as any coming-of-age film little brother should be. His pure quips with big sister Sydney are chuckle-inducing. Richard Ellis is uncomfortably menacing as Brad. His character is written like a typical jock cliché, but a certain scene in the final episode lets him truly showcase his evilness. 

The storyline is relatively strong, contrasting Sydney’s mundane high school struggles with the impending growth of her powers. Her character shows growth and progression, often switching through moods and juggling relationships, which makes her feel real and tangible. The tension that results from Sydney’s secret crush on her best friend and the judgmental gaze of her football player boyfriend culminates in a wonderfully cathartic (and bloody) finish. Sydney narrates the story, providing insight into the struggle of growing up. For seven episodes, a good amount of narrative is covered, though it feels as if the show reaches peak engagement right before it ends. 

The biggest fault of the show is its reliance on all-too-familiar sequences that make the production feel like a Frankenstein’s monster of coming-of-age films’ greatest hits. The show sports cheesy clichés such as the awkward school dance and the menacing football jock. In one instance, a main character shouts out, “Oh, I love this song. Come dance!” when a classic song pops on at a super cool high school party. One character consistently changes audio mix tapes on a giant speaker, queuing up musical sequences where they don’t really need to be. It’s moments like these that kill the show’s identity and reduce it to another helping of clichés.

The lead cast’s performances, enriching score and short bursts of storytelling keep this series fresh and engaging. Equal parts “The Breakfast Club” as it is “Carrie,” “I Am Not Okay with This” is a deliciously evil binge. 

Rating: 4 Stanleys out of 5