Review by Sean Boelman
Directed by Alex Lee Moyer, TFW NO GF is a new documentary exploring one of the most infamous memes in the history of the internet. However, after a few minutes of really intriguing commentary on the dangerous potential of the world wide web, it soon becomes obvious that the film wants to be more important than it actually is.
The movie explores the movement of incels and their unofficial mascot, the meme character “Wojack”. With her film, Moyer promises to explore some of the darkest corners of the internet, but fails to offer much substantial material on the social impact of what is being discussed. Instead, the movie comes off as an attempt to capitalize on the moment.
That isn’t to say that there is no depth to the film — certain segments are really interesting — but more often than not, the movie feels like it doesn’t live up to its potential. There is a portion of the film that addresses some of the violence and threats of violence that have been inspired by this culture, but not enough of the runtime is devoted to this topic.
Part of this movie’s issue is that it doesn’t have a total grasp of what it wants to be. On one hand, it is trying to be a topical and harrowing documentary on the toxicity of the internet, but it also wants to be an entertaining movie about a viral sensation. With the film having such a short runtime, there simply isn’t enough time to accommodate both of these tones.
Furthermore, the development of the subjects in the movie is not effective at all. There are so many people interviewed in the film that it is difficult to form a connection with the subject matter. By trying to explore the movement as a whole rather than a smaller subset of its followers, no emotional reaction (in either direction) is elicited.
That said, perhaps more problematic is that Moyer takes no real stance on the people she is interviewing. To the average viewer, these people will likely come off as off-putting or even annoying. However, because the movie has both comedic and serious elements, it is never clear whether or not the viewer is supposed to take the film seriously.
The main success of this movie is its visual execution. A majority of the film is told via animations featuring Wojack, with narration from the interviews accompanying it. For a movie that is based on such a modern phenomenon, it is fitting that the style is so innovative and unique. The visual style of the film is certainly very energetic and lends the movie a lot.
TFW NO GF has a lot of really interesting ideas at its core, and a great style, but unfortunately, the film is too short and unfocused to have much impact. Still, those interested in learning about some unique aspects of internet culture may enjoy the movie nevertheless.
TFW NO GF was set to debut at the cancelled 2020 SXSW Film Festival. It is currently seeking distribution.