High school newspaper reporter Dash spends his life in sanctimonious judgement of his peers, irritated that everyone ignores his self-declared writerly genius. Soon after his fellow journalist and only friend Assaf begins dating the newspaper editor Verti and Dash is sidelined on account of his childish retaliation, an earthquake knocks their school from its cliff top perch, whereupon it is gradually swallowed by the ocean and everyone launches into an immediate scramble for survival.
My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea is as odd a creation as its title is unwieldy utilitarian. Deaths abound through the likes of drowning, decapitation, electrocution and shark attack, social factions quickly descend into post-apocalyptic parodies of themselves, and through it all those of the central group remain relatively unfazed by the chaos surrounding them.
For all its bizarre setup and surreal plot progression, it’s the film’s highly unusual animation style that really sells it. The characters look like literal cardboard cutouts, their colouring rarely staying within the lines of thick black pen that forms their physical and facial detailing, while the backdrops are stylised shapes painted in coarse watercolour. The visuals take a little while to get used to but soon come to fit the not-quite-real world scenario. Had the movie been live-action, or animated with a smoother and more consistent style, the self-contained world might have seemed a little too surreal to take in, but this almost intentionally slapdash approach allows the suspension of disbelief necessary for the audience to accept the story’s jagged flow of dream logic.
As a hero, Dash is difficult to relate to as he is so obnoxiously egotistical it’s impossible to afford him even the faintest sympathy; he might be frustrated that everyone ignores him, but maybe if he was less of a dick people might actually care about what he has to say. Fortunately, the initial focus on his utterly unlikable personality is soon overshadowed by subsequent events and the race to the school’s roof. The floors of the building upon which different academic years are respectively housed act as a physical representation of the stratification of high school life, where nothing more than advanced age often equates to elevated social standing, coming with it an inflated sense of self-importance. Thus, their journey to the school’s summit is an accelerated struggle through the tempestuous maze that is high school itself, and only by escaping from the clutches of its artificial echelons can they save themselves.
Simultaneously satirising the predictability of disaster movies and the vacuity of teenage social cliques, My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea is an odd amalgamation of contrasting tropes, but an engaging collage of experimental filmmaking.
MY ENTIRE HIGH SCHOOL SINKING INTO THE SEA / CERT: TBA / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: DASH SHAW / STARRING: JASON SCHWARTZMAN, LENA DUNHAM, REGGIE WATTS, MAYA RUDOLPH, SUSAN SARANDON / RELEASE DATE: TBA
Expected Rating: 6/10