Jane Schoenbrun (director)
April 29, 2022 (published)
Chanting “I want to go to the World’s Fair”, Casey pricks his finger and smears blood on the laptop screen. Her waxen face, an intense gaze towards the camera with flashing lights reflecting off her and she is introduced to the game.
From there, Casey starts logging on and uploading his videos as well as watching others playing as well. A man on a running machine slapping himself; another obsessive Tetris junky sprawled like a bathroom floor. These look like lost people trying to find their way, like Casey who lives in what appears to be a semi-rural area, may also be.
What we learn is that Casey is lonely, possibly lonely – the only other member of her family we hear is her father telling her to turn the volume down – and a horror lover. The film for a period gives the impression that it will be a loner. But writer and director Jane Schoenbrun takes us away from Casey for other gamers and what they experience when they download and participate in the World’s Fair community.
Among these, Casey receives a message from JLB (Michael J Rogers) who is also playing and picking up Casey’s videos, which bothered him. Our vision of JLB is that of an older, wealthy man, almost immediately arousing the fears of the viewer. Through a series of exchanges they get to know each other and from the timestamp on the camera the viewer can see how long it takes until it all comes crashing down.
It’s a very disturbing film that tends to head to the internet like a crutch that people use to escape lonely, dull lives for a delusional sense of inclusion. Granted, the game is ridiculous, though the pull is obvious to those who feel left out or rejected by society, giving them a semblance of community and support with like-minded people.
Casey comes across as a very lonely and possibly depressed woman – in one of her videos she describes a graveyard as her high school – or it could be gallows humor fueling something she later describes as just a game It’s never quite clear though there is a heartbreaking sequence when, in a frenzy, she tears apart her childhood stuffed toy, Poe, which she later regrets bitterly, or is it just a rite of passage, like gambling?
It’s a confident start from Anna Cobb where she’s quite clearly at times vulnerable and confused but confident enough to make decisions when needed.
Technically it’s interesting, otherwise it implies that POV, filming and laptop lighting tend to keep the viewer at a distance. However, the characters and interactions of Cobb and Rogers hold the film together so that it doesn’t just come across as a self-indulgent writer/director project.
We’re All Going to the World’s Fair will be released in theaters nationwide from April 29 and on digital download and limited edition Blu-ray from May 9.