Turtles All the Way Down (2024)

Turtles All the Way Down Review

Turtles All the Way Down (2024)

During my middle school years, the John Green novels served as the epitome of teenage diaries that my friends and I were hooked on. We greedily devoured his works while living on Margo Roth Spiegelman and Alaska Young, who fed our angst and enhanced otherness or yearning for Hazel and Augustus’ love only to rush to theaters when it was confirmed they were being adapted for filming.

Hannah Marks is directing “Turtles All the Way Down,” a new page-to-screen conversion of a John Green tale written by two co-scribes Elizabeth Berger with Isaac Aptaker from “Love, Simon.” The novel was published several years after entering adulthood, but the question of whether Green’s youthful narrative charm would still remain had been going through my mind. But “Turtles All the Way Down” isn’t that tired; rather, its directed at tweens and teens who will embrace it even if they might think that they are too old.

Aza (Isabela Merced) is a timid teenager with obsessive-compulsive disorder, who constantly finds herself caught up in intrusive thought patterns about infection and the human microbiome where she does not know where she begins or ends. Aza often feels like she is drowning in her own humanity along with managing her mental health condition while grieving over her father’s death combined with feeling misunderstood by her loving but overly protective mother (Judy Reyes). Her best friend Daisy (Cree) however is completely opposite to her in every way: outgoing, funny and seemingly unfazed by anything sometimes bordering on recklessness.

Daisy convinces Aza to break into his estate for clues because Davis (Felix Mallard), one of themagnate’s sons went missing,charges were pending against his father.Aza’s saving grace when security caught them was knowing Davis from grief camp once upon a time.Suddenly their relationship goes from childhood crushes to budding romance. However, as Aza longs for intimacy, her OCD becomes suffocated by the intrusive swirl of anxious butterflies.

“Turtles All the Way Down” captures a moment in youth that feels very now and is marked by conversations about mental health. Marks’ direction and great sound design (which pairs Aza’s streams of consciousness with a pounding static) puts us right inside her head. Neither does the film nor Merced’s performance, which is highly emotional pity Aza or people like her in othering ways.The proximity we gain to Merced’s inner voice via her narration and smiles that are brought on by Cree alongside Merced make Aza so relatable that it is easy to identify our own anxieties among her shallow breathes for all those who have had these emotions. Still, her OCD and intrusive thoughts do not define who she is as a person. Additionally, the film’s tenderness and humor are poignant and thrilling throughout most of it while she gets stuck in moments of blankness within herself. And it’s also pretty relatable too!

Aza and Daisy could spend the day together discussing their love lives with sarcasm, eating dinner at Applebee’s using coupons and driving in Aza’s car which always plays Outkast’s Stankonia CD. One of the best songs in this colorful film score was when they rap “Ms Jackson” loudly while passing down a street in town, amongst others by Tame Impala, Billie Eilish, and LCD Soundsystem as well.

While Davis-Aza romance has many heartwarming moments, it cannot measure up against the authenticity of Merced’s performance. Some reminiscences of your first crush or other times you thought about what might have been (unless your teenage girlfriend whisked you to Chicago on a private plane congratulations for that), but nothing compares to Aza-Daisy relationship. Yet among all these ups and downs was an abiding sense of being someone’s closest companion amid love, lust, or bacteria.

John Green fills every page of his novel “Turtles All the Way Down” with his signature whimsy. While it is an adorable YA romance book that is not limited to just its target audience. “Turtles All the Way Down” will find the youth identifying and everyone else remembering.

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