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We're All Going to the World's Fair

Critic:

Alasdair MacRae

|

Posted on:

3 May 2022

Film Reviews
We're All Going to the World's Fair
Directed by:
Jane Schoenbrun
Written by:
Jane Schoenbrun
Starring:
Anna Cobb, Michael J Rogers
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The feature film debut of writer-director Jane Schoenbrun is a personal one. Being non-binary trans and having a fascination with horror message boards, they distil their own experience to create a beautiful and haunting portrait of the confluence of dysphoria and online culture.

 

“I wanna go to the World’s Fair”

“I wanna go to the World’s Fair”

“I wanna go to the World’s Fair”

 

Casey (Anna Cobb), a lonely teen, decides to take part in a creepypasta style trend known as ‘The World’s Fair Challenge’. After completing the ritual to ‘enter’ strange things begin to happen to her which she records and shares with the online community.

 

As Casey explores the videos shared by the other people participating in the challenge, she witnesses people changing, losing control of their bodies and senses. One person claims, in a hypnotic neon pink wash, that their body is turning into plastic. Another picks at their green pus covered skin, reaches inside their flesh, and pulls out a string of fairground tickets. These glimpses of personal creative abstractions encourage her to engage with her own sense of feeling other.

 

Through the repeated use of in-world cameras, such as a webcam, Schoenbrun alters the layer of artifice we perceive their characters through. In a similar way to found footage it creates a different textual reality, one closer to our own. And seeing Casey in distress through her own lens is as terrifying as it gets.

 

Anna Cobb, who makes her feature film debut here too, feels relatable and knowable as Casey. Most remarkably she conveys the sense of being trapped below the surface of her body. Tears swell in her eyes, but they do not breach. Her ability to deftly shift through the emotional register allows Schoenbrun the freedom to switch up the tone at a moment’s notice. A scene can start at a light chuckle, lurch violently into intense dread and crash into profound sadness in a matter of seconds.

 

We’re All Going to the World’s Fair is an accomplished and challenging work. Schoenbrun delivers an impressive debut that is emotionally resonant and culturally significant. A rare and bold exploration of dysphoria from a trans filmmaker and one of the best realisations of the internet experience to date.

About the Film Critic
Alasdair MacRae
Alasdair MacRae
Theatrical Release, LGBTQ+