Directed by: #JoeHarvey
Written by: #JoeHarvey
“Hi, guys! Welcome back to my channel!” is the call of the modern Youtuber. Youtube has now become a prime way for young, entrepreneurial creatives to make their living. There’s the lifestyle vlogs, the video essays, the viral pranks. If you can go viral and maintain the sudden growth in your fanbase - you’ve made it. However, viral videos don’t have to be truthful; they just have to be shareable. Too many times has a video spread like wildfire only for the truth to slowly trickle out like a leak. Joe Harvey’s latest work, Their Story, takes place in this maelstrom of online Chinese whispers and examines how easily a lie can slip out of control.
Spliced between the images of curated, carefree vlogs, a young couple sits on a park bench. They had been engaged, but Baz (Anthony Vander) left Danielle (Jade Abode) in the lurch five months ago with no explanation. As the couple make up and process the reasons why Baz left Danielle, an opportunistic vlogger, Syd (Michael Douglas), lurks behind the bushes videoing Baz and Danielle. Across from Syd, another vlogger, Sami (Nora F, Alexia Turchi), stakes out the couple. Both Sami and Syd invent wild backstories to Baz and Danielle’s sorrow, causing this intimate moment between the couple to become moneyspinners for the vloggers.
Director Joe Harvey demonstrates a fantastic disconnect from the online world to the real one. The handheld vlog footage is well-incorporated and drives home how overtly sweet and unrealistic internet content can be. Melancholy moments are obscured by the vlogger Syd, whose cap is emblazoned with the Youtube logo, and excitedly catches his “digital disciples” up on this breaking story. Actor Michael Douglas is particularly good as the obnoxious Syd, and he has a talent for timing and comedy. Laughing with Syd immediately places the audience in a difficult situation, as the real heartbreaking story unravels in front of them.
However, Harvey’s film is often far too on the nose, and the situation is too overblown and exaggerated for nuanced social commentary. While the questions Their Story asks seem pertinent, the answers are skimmed off the surface of Youtube, and the film doesn’t interrogate internet culture as much as it should. Baz and Danielle’s relationship doesn’t feel as tactile as Syd’s parasocial relationship with his fans. Their pain is as scripted as a Youtube prank video, and unfortunately, their relationship lacks the sense of authenticity that every influencer yearns for.
The internet has been evolving throughout its existence, especially on Youtube, where things change at lightspeed. Joe Harvey has captured this zeitgeist, and even though the film isn’t particularly nuanced, it still provides an interesting commentary on internet culture today. Their Story won’t result in an immediate like, comment and subscribe, but Joe Harvey demonstrates that he’s got some exciting stories to tell.