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boygenius – “the film” (Black Dog Films) [Short Film Review]

boygenius recently unveiled their Kristen Stewart-directed short film “the film” (Black Dog Films), and it is a wonderfully shot experiment in indie-style filmmaking.



boygenius “the film”

boygenius, the “supergroup” formed by U.S indie favourites Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker, recently released their first collaborative album, the record to high acclaim.

With a distinctively ’90s sound, the songs are warm, varying from fragile to hard-edged indie-rock, and touch on themes of childhood and friendship, which are clearly close to the hearts of the individual members. The tone of the album draws certain parallels with the work of Elliott Smith and the underrated Pingrove.

As the band embarks on a massive U.S. and European Summer Tour that takes them from April to the end of August, they have marked the occasion with the release of the film, (they love their lower cases). Showcasing the first three singles from the album, they have recruited Hollywood star Kristen Stewart to direct. Stewart is no stranger to directing music videos, having previously provided images for Sage and The Saints and Chvrches. Much like Derek Jarman’sQueen is Dead film, which similarly provided three shorts from The Smiths’ legendary 1986 album, the film provides a true taste for the tone of the remaining album.

Last week, the film debuted across MTV channels, on the giant Paramount Times Square Billboard in New York, and they appeared as a part of a Q and A at the El Rey Theatre in L.A.

The film itself is a wonderfully shot experiment in indie-style filmmaking, in some ways echoing the spirit of Harmony Korine’s work.

The first track, “Emily I’m Sorry,” finds the band as children in a typical mid-American white-painted house, with junk in the yard and a white picket fence. Much like the setting of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet, it is clear that all is not well as the kids’ playtime turns to fire-starting and rebellion. The hazy cinematography and slow-motion sequences add a dreamy feel to the dark tone of the action, and the shot of the girls carrying out a blood oath hammers home the themes of lifelong friendship. Stewart clearly knows her stuff and evokes the atmosphere of the best indie-teen movies, notably Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides.

boygenius “the film” movie poster

boygenius “the film” movie poster

“$20” finds Phoebe Bridgers, all grown up and stood with vulnerability in the middle of a monster truck show as the massive vehicles leap and plough around in the background. As Bridgers sings, “In another life we were arsonists,” we can predict more fire-starting as she is joined by Dacus and Baker, matches in hand. With a flick of the wrist, the now adults have taken on the monster of adulthood and burned it down. Unlike its predecessor, “$20” rises into a screaming climax that heightens the emotions in Stewart’s imagery.

The film is rounded up with “True Blue,” a meditative song that details a move to Chicago and the process of settling into new surroundings. The film sees Lucy Dacus de-cluttering an empty living room and daubing the walls in blue paint, making her mark, this no longer being the family home of “Emily I’m Sorry.” Once joined by her friends, paint is smeared even more aggressively across both walls and bodies, and passionate emotions come to the fore.

There is a neat narrative to the trio of films that make up the release that tracks relationships beautifully. In practical terms, the film will undoubtedly point viewers toward the album, which is well worth the much-anticipated wait.

Hopefully, this collaboration will not be a singular venture. Fans of all three artists will not be disappointed.

Director: Kristen Stewart
Production Company: Black Dog Films
Distributed by: Interscope Records
Release Date: March 31, 2023
Run Time: 14:22

Del Pike is a University lecturer in Film and Media in Liverpool (UK). He writes film, music, art, literature and culture articles and reviews for a number of websites. Del loves nothing more than snuggling down in a dark cinema, getting sweaty at  a live gig or drifting off late at night to a good book. He loves cats. He enjoys promoting new talent online so please say hi if you have something to show.