The title alone is a dream for anyone between the age of 12 and 18, so add some LSD inspired visuals and what can go wrong?
My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea (2016) is an animated dramedy written and directed by Dash Shaw. It stars Jason Schwartzman as Dash Shaw (yeah we’ll get to that), a disillusioned sophomore at Tides High School with best friends Mary (Lena Dunham) and Assaf (Reggie Watts) when an earthquake dislodges their school and plunges them into the sea.
I’m just going to get this out of the way – I adored this film. Its weird and rough and eclectic and unique and I think I’ve fallen in love. Its not for everyone – in fact, plenty of people are going to detest this weird little creature of a movie – but for lovers of last year’s Swiss Army Man (like me) or simply anything that’s just slightly off-kilter, there is a joyous experience to be had here.
Lets start with the acid-fuelled visuals. The style is designed to mimic the back-of-the-book doodles of a bored school student and while its seriously low-budget it works wonders. There’s an incredible potent mix of innovation and creativity behind this visual design, most likely due to director Shaw’s previous experience as an animator. In reality the film fluctuates between five or six different art styles, all tied together by their hand-drawn aesthetic and are all equally striking. That being said, due to it being so rough there are times that its hard to visualise what exactly is happening on screen as it devolves into a bright mess of colours and shapes. Thankfully however those moments are few and far between.
The story itself is completely nuts, but that’s exactly its point. This is essentially a classic high school drama very heavily disguised as an absurd disaster movie, using the crumbling school and student dynamics as a commentary on the usual cliches of cinematic schooling. Its an incredibly clever way to tell this story and it helps that the disaster tropes of high tension and spectacle elevates it even higher. Keep in mind however, this is not a story that should be taken seriously – due to the main character being named after the director its likely that this narrative itself is meta-created by a high school student that has exaggerated everything to the nth degree, leading to bizarre situations, crazy characters and frankly absurd ideas.
Speaking of characters, the performances and characterisations in here are utterly perfect for the film itself. Schwartzman’s lead of Dash Shaw starts off rather unlikeable, but he slowly turns into an endearing if occasionally grating character with an expected terrific performance from Schwartzman himself. The supporting characters are all equally fantastic and considerably more grounded than Shaw’s melodramatic sensibilities, but special mention also has to go to Susan Sarandon as Lunch Lady Lorraine, quite possibly my favourite character so far this year. Something about a hardcore lunch lady who sailed around the world with a husband who died of food poisoning is both hilarious and tragic at the same time and she really is the standout amongst a very solid cast.
Oh yeah, and did I mention that this film is funny? Because my god it is funny. Just like the film itself, it’s only going to appeal to a certain demographic but I was rolling in the aisles on a few occasions. The comedy always comes from a pseudo-serious place and so is typically incredibly unexpected, and its all delivered in a dead-pan almost British (if it wasn’t so absurd) manner.
So if you haven’t gotten the gist yet, My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea is not for anyone but the weird-at-heart. Its unconventional art style, absurd storyline and hilarious writing adds up to a film that a small sect of people are going to worship in the years to come. If anything I’ve written here sounds interesting to you, this is an absolute must-see. If not, then this is a class that you might as well skip.
General Audiences: Not Recommended
Film Buffs: Highly Recommended