Watching Frederic Da’s Teenage Emotions can feel like a bit of a shock at first. Shot entirely on iPhones in extreme close-ups, Da films teenagers around a Los Angeles high school in what looks like raw, point-and-shoot footage. In its opening minutes, the shoddy and garish nature of the visuals makes the film look like it could be mistaken for an assignment made by one of its characters. But in no time these perceived flaws turn out to be the film’s greatest assets. On a surface level, Teenage Emotions is an ugly film, but that ugliness helps give it a vitality that makes it one of the most authentic and entertaining portraits of high school in ages.
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Part of its success comes from what Da manages to capture, taking an approach that blends construction with observation. There’s no doubt that Teenage Emotions is largely fiction, at least on a story basis.