Apple TV+ film review: Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry
Ivan Radford | On 27, Feb 2021
“We are never gonna be in this moment ever again,” musical sensation Billie Eilish tells her fans in the middle of a concert. It’s a sentiment that’s also told to her by another pop star, Justin Bieber, who advises her to treasure each step of her career while it lasts. Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry captures that duality of her unique position in the modern music industry with a compelling immediacy.
Director RJ Cutler whisks us into the whirlwind of her existence, one that saw her shoot to fame a couple of years ago with her debut album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, which bagged multiple Grammys. It’s still remarkable to remember that it was recorded in a bedroom studio with her brother and co-producer, Finneas, something that’s at once irrelevant and central to her rocketing success, which comes after they uploaded the track Oceans Eyes to SoundCloud in 2015 for her dance performance and the track unexpectedly went viral.
Today, she tours arenas and stadia at the age of just 19, riding a global wave of fan adulation that recalls Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus and Britney Spears. But Eilish is different to all of them, having grown up in an always-only, social media age of self-awareness, self-expression, self-publicity and self-documentation. Authenticity is important, but it’s also something that preoccupies her, as it does with every other teen who posts anything on the internet; there’s a fascinating extra dimension to watching the way that this very modern pop star has risen to fame in an era where being yourself and presenting a version of yourself are something that everyone now goes through whenever a smartphone is produced. One minute, she looks determinedly away from the camera. The next, she knowingly pulls faces directly at it.
Cutler’s verite documentary, filmed from 2018 to 2020, leaves us in no doubt of Eilish’s prodigious talent, as she and Finneas work together with a familial proximity and creative synchronicity to craft chart-topping songs. The trust and access that Cutler has built with the whole family is hugely impressive, and we get a sense of the support the clan all provide, especially her dad-joking father. This is no promotional presentation, though, and there’s a looser, raw feel to the footage Cutler’s assembled, from heated discussions about making a song that’s “accessible” to Billie’s frustrating at songwriting compared to her pleasure at singing the songs that are already finished.
Moments of stress and tension find her overwhelmed backstage at gigs, with those around her grounding her and helping her to overcome the vertigo of fast-climbing fame. Other moments see her talk openly about her dread of bullying trolls online, or the loneliness of her busy life. But it’s also a joy to see excited, laughing and naturally bubbly presence, as she privately jokes with Finneas or runs over to greet fans queuing up in hope of a fleeting interaction. The line between the two groups on either side of the fence, we soon realise, isn’t all that substantial, and The World’s a Little Blurry explores the interesting dichotomy (or lack thereof) that her status affords.
The best moments of the film (equally cringe-inducing and endearing) are when she crosses paths with her own celebrity heroes, whether it’s belatedly realising that she’s just met Orlando Bloom or her starstruck awe of Justin Bieber that reduces her immediately to one of the intensely adoring figures in the crowds behind them. The fact that she’s broken two Guinness World Records and won three MTV Music Video Awards has nothing to do with it and everything to do with it. This is a moving, revealing portrait of a young artist living a pressured, non-stop ride. You hope that she continues to do so with the support, assurance and conviction she already displays.
Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry is available on Apple TV+, as part of a £4.99 monthly subscription, with a seven-day free trial. For more information on Apple TV+ and how to get it, click here.