Sorry, but I kinda loved this one.
It’s got all the strange energy of one of those girls-own adventure books that I’d read in the school library during lunchtime as a kid. One of the ones that’d end with an obvious sequel hook — maybe even a ‘Rachel, Jack, and Ashley will return in…’ note in the end matters — and yet be the only publication available by that author.
It’s all there, the middle school anxiety, the fractious sibling relationship, the single parent with a weird obsession with their strange small business. They even drive around in an embarrassing novelty vehicle.
Sure, it’s weird and disjointed, the second episode in this season that features a weirdly placed and kinda unnecessary time jump, that feels more like a screenwriting crutch than a meaningful story development, and the tone is kinda all over the place. But those are all regular features of dumb books I loved as a kid, unsure authors desperate to cram in every idea they ever had.
So while the kids are dealing with the death of their mother, and lonliness, and having moved schools, and talent competitions, and companion robots, in a way that never quite congeals. We’re also watching Miley Cyrus is a straight edged satire about pop-stardom and familial abuse.
I’ll admit to being concerned the first half of this film, the whole thing seemed very mean. I was kinda worried that it sorta infantilised Angourie Rice’s co-lead character, casting her bubblegum pop fandom as an entirely negative force in her life. What, with the introduction of a cutesy helper robot and knowledgeable of Brooker’s tendencies it paints a concerning image.
I mean, the man was a fun culture critic, I think I still have a few of his books somewhere (An aside: somehow, in 2003, when I was nine, I managed to accidentally catch his episode of The Art Show ‘How to Watch Television’, I think it was on sometime after the Simpsons, and to my young brain it was incredibly influential.) but the man is basically the forerunner to the forerunners to the forerunners of those types who have youtube channels full of Last Jedi takedowns. His is a very late nineties form of masculinity, in ways that sometimes chafe.
And yet, when it comes to the wire here, this episode exhibits a profound streak of earnestness. Director Anne Sewitsky valiantly lets the material and actors lead the show, and in doing so the tonal mess of the thing kinda rings emotionally true.
Like, the poisoning scene is cruel in a way that is — taken in isolation — completely unwarranted, yet somehow necessary for the cartoon brain scanner pulling songs outta her head intrigue that is to follow.
I love it because it’s a completely sincere evocation of something that I’m pretty sure was written cynically. I mean, it ends on the cutesy robot headbanging at the bar of a rock concert with an anarchy flag sticker across its torso. I mean, if you ever see anything that’s more my fucking speed just go right ahead and tell me.
Black Mirror season 5 is currently available to stream via Netflix.