New Netflix show addresses pressing issues despite flaws

Photo courtesy of Netflix

Netflix's new show “I Am Not Okay with This,” based off the graphic novel by Charles Forsman, premiered on the streaming site on Feb. 26. The show is directed by Jonathan Entwistle, who also directed "The End of the F***ing World" on Netflix. 

Known for playing Beverley Marsh in the “IT” films, Sophia Lillis plays Sydney Novak, a self-appointed, boring 17-year-old white girl who is dealing with the recent suicide of her father, the struggles of being a teen and coming to terms with her sexuality. Given a diary by her school’s counselor in episode one, she writes of how she is easily put into fits of rage. "It feels like I'm boiling inside," she says.

Weird things start to happen, an example being her best friend Dina’s (Sofia Bryant) new boyfriend, Brad Lewis (Richard Ellis), getting a nose bleed when Sydney is frustrated with his presence. Soon it escalates to a wall getting a massive crack after a failed heart-to-heart with her overworked mother Maggie, played by Kathleen Rose Perkins.

Confused and scared, she finds comfort in her neighbor Stanely Barber, played by Wyatt Oleff who is also known for playing Stanely Uris in the “IT” films alongside Lillis. Stanely is a loveable weirdo with an interest in indie music and VHS tapes, and soon helps Sydney in understanding these mysterious powers. 

Lillis does a fantastic job in her portrayal as Sydney. Still, she is not the only star of the show despite being the main character. Bryant adds a sense of warmth and light to the show as her portrayal of Dina. She is a caring and loving person with a touch of humor. There for Sydney and not questioning her when she needs help, Dina comes off as the flaky friend in the first two episodes when she starts dating Brad, but quickly retracts and admits she has not been a good companion. 

Oleff as Stanely adds the best comic relief to the show. It is clear he has a crush on Sydney, but is still willing to be there for her, despite not receiving anything in return.

Ellis hits the nail on the head as the jerky jock Brad, and Aidan Wojitak-Hissong's performance as Sydney’s little adorable brother Liam is excellent.

The show takes a fascinating and more otherworldly look at mental illness and how it affects an individual. For example, Sydney really has no control over her powers: she is unable to use them on command. They only come out when she is angry, or the things that have been boiling inside her become too much. 

The portrayal of mental illness in the media is a hit or miss lately, and “I Am Not Okay with This” does a better job than most. The show is not perfect and falls into the typical overplayed teen angst dialogue from time to time. However, it stands out from other shows that have tried to portray this topic. 

The ending of the season is a shocker and feels like the start of a whole new storyline that will hopefully be explored in a second season. Netflix has yet to announce the show's renewal.

3/5 stars