Review by Camden Ferrell
Thunderbolt in Mine Eye is a teen romance and coming of age film directed by Sarah Sherman and Zachary Ray Sherman. This film was also produced by indie icons Jay and Mark Duplass. This movie may fly under the radar, but it’s a wholesome and sweet love story that will speak to today’s generation in a unique and funny way.
This movie follows an intelligent high school freshman, Harper, and the relationship she forms with her brother’s best friend, Tilly. This is a tale that has been told countless times, but Sarah Sherman’s script captures this story with a true modern spirit that allows it to stand out. It’s an authentic representation of Generation Z and the relationships they have.
This is a movie that aims to celebrate young love and properly explore its complexities. It’s not a traditional teen comedy that is over the top and functions as a caricature of high school culture, nor is it a pretentious and preachy thematic exploration of love. It aims to tell a realistic story about two people and the bond they share, and this movie does exactly that. There are no gimmicks and no forced raunchy humor; it’s simply capturing the story as it is.
This movie is led by Anjini Taneja Azhar and Quinn Liebling. Azhar gives a stellar performance as Harper. She achieves a level of realism that is genuinely impressive. She fully understands the nuances of her character, her motivations, and all of the minor little details that make the character feel tangible. Liebling plays off of her really well. They have a very natural chemistry while also being able to create some palpable awkwardness. They are young, but they have already proven their abilities as actors with this movie.
One of the film’s greatest virtues is how socially conscious and aware it is. Harper advocates for women’s rights throughout the film, and it’s a theme that doesn’t feel forced, but it does demonstrate a basic understanding of social context throughout the film. The movie never feels outdated or politically incorrect. It assesses today’s social climate and embeds it within the film in such an authentic way. It handles its more sensitive moments with immense care and brilliant execution. It functions as a schematic of what should be expected of movies about and aimed at teenagers.
This is a movie that will resonate most with those who were born after 2000, but it has a universal charm that is almost infectious. It’s the first movie I have seen that finds the awkward sweetness in gen Z culture rather than shamelessly exploiting it. Azhar and Liebling do an exceptional job at really highlighting all of the awkward encounters and cringing moments that are a part of our formative years. It’s a bittersweet feeling of relatability that really makes this film speak loud on a personal level.
Like many films, it hits a brief lull in its second act, but the film mostly overcomes it. It juggles its many themes, conflicts, and shifts in tone fairly well. It avoids overused character archetypes in lieu of a more appropriate and accurate depiction of today’s teens. It’s a sweet and timeless movie that is heightened by its genuine script and realistic performances.
Thunderbolt in Mine Eye is a great film from Zachary Ray Sherman and first-time director Sarah Sherman. It tells a familiar tale, but it presents it in a modern context for today’s generation. It’s a movie that will leave you feeling emotionally satisfied while also reminding you of your own experiences as a high schooler.
Thunderbolt in Mine Eye debuted at the 2020 Slamdance Film Festival which ran January 23-30 in Park City, UT.