Billie Eilish’s first documentary, available on AppleTV+, documents the creative process of Eilish’s first album ‘When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?‘. Following the journey from her first radio play to her sell-out tour 3 years later, clips of Eilish singing in her basement are juxtaposed with more recent clips of her surrounded by cameras and fans singing the words back to her. Director R.J. Cutler places the viewer directly in the middle of it all – he says “You’re in the rooms, you’re in the cars, you’re on the planes, you’re everywhere she is,” allowing the viewer an intimate insight into the strenuous and often mundane life of the young pop star.
The documentary starts with old home videos of Billie as a child singing in a school talent show, and it’s no wonder Billie ended up in the music industry after growing up alongside her musically gifted family. Her parents, Patrick O’Connell and Maggie Baird, taught her how to play instruments and write music from a young age. And her creative companion is none other than her own brother, Finneas. The verité-style documentary is mostly comprised of interactions between Billie and said family in their own home, emphasising just how family-oriented she is.
The song writing process takes place in her brother’s cramped bedroom; Eilish and Finneas lounge around in their pyjamas as they create songs that go on to win several Grammys by the end of the documentary. Billie doodles her album ideas in a notepad and talks through her music video ideas with her mum in her back garden whilst the family dog trails in between shots. It is probably one of the least staged documentaries available, all raw footage compiled together to portray Billie as the normal teenage girl she actually is, which makes her very relatable and likeable to watch. The family tiffs aren’t edited out, and we witness Billie in a teenage-like tantrum as her mum suggests she opts for writing a song that is more “conventional.” If this tells us anything about Billie, it’s that she wants nothing more than to be her authentic self at all times.
Sometimes Billie does not seem like a teenager at all, she is very well-spoken and intellectual for her age. She directs her own music videos, and she is very meticulous with everything she does. These moments are directly contrasted with clips of her fan-girling over Justin Bieber, getting her driver’s license and her mum doing her laundry for her, which serves to remind you of just how young she actually is. This makes the darker parts of the documentary more uncomfortable to watch, as a 17 year-old Billie is incredibly self-critical, to the point where she addresses the crowd by saying “I’m nobody, I don’t know why you like me.” Her parents express their worries about her suicidal lyrics, and Billie openly mentions that she struggled with self-harm in the past.
She’s overwhelmed as she’s thrown into meet and greet’s she wasn’t prepared for, and deals with hateful online comments amidst relationship problems and the general struggles of being an adolescent. She suffers from countless performance injuries and is constantly exhausted. It’s a lot to deal with at such a young age, and you can’t help but hope that she doesn’t sink under the pressure like a lot of young stars tend to do. But luckily, it is evident that Billie has a huge support network around her to ensure that doesn’t happen.
But it’s not all gloomy. The documentary comes full circle when Billie sweeps up all her Grammy awards and her first love Justin Bieber congratulates her via FaceTime. After watching the sheer amount of hard work that went into the album, it proves those awards were truly well-deserved. R.J. Cutler does a good job at balancing the highs and lows of showbusiness, and allows room for Billie and her mum to shut down accusations that Billie’s music is “too depressing for a teenager,” stating that teenagers in this climate need a relatable figure in the limelight.
Falling just short of 2 and a half hours, the documentary has been criticised for being too long -maybe that’s what happens when you try to squeeze two jam-packed years into one documentary. The World’s A Little Blurry is an enjoyable watch for both fans and non-fans, and we’ll be keeping our eyes peeled for Eilish’s next projects…
Words: Dionne Hodges