“Get ready with me” videos are a popular YouTube trend where (mostly) teenagers film their routine to bring along their viewers on their daily life; and for a short film of the same name that tackles popularity and YouTube culture, you can only expect the first image to be a computer screen.
But instead of such an obvious choice, the film opens on what seems like the exact contrary: a slow zoom on the grey bark of a tree, singled out in a wintery forest. The wind makes everything creak and groan while the tree’s dark sap starts trickling down like blood – or is it dripping tears instead?
This ambiguity and uncomfortable atmosphere is at the heart of Get Ready With Me, directed by Jonatan Etzler (“Riktigt Mycket Pengar”, “Intercourse”) and winner of the 2018 Student Academy Awards.
The story starts off with a teacher’s waking nightmare when Vendela, Miriam Benthe (“Silence (Short)”, “Svarara (Short)”), a seemingly shy and unpopular student, decides to present her film class project: a YouTube tutorial on how to commit suicide.
With the peppy tone of every teen Youtuber, she casually gives advice on how to say goodbye to your loved ones and demonstrates how to cut yourself most efficiently. The images projected on the white board make her classmates laugh and ask for more, but her teacher Lukas sees in them a distress call that won’t leave his mind. From that moment onward, he will make it his goal to save the young girl from a tragic fate.
What seems like a preventive spot against bullying helmed by a passive victim and a golden-hearted teacher quickly but subtly turns into a dark and captivating thriller. The film brings a lot of nuance to the bullying narrative, blurring the lines between victims and perpetrators while never revelling in it gratuitously.
It instead offers a realistic – although deeply cynical – depiction of teen angst in a culture obsessed with fame. The two protagonists are the biggest sell: they are very well-written and compelling throughout, especially thanks to the nuances and complexities brought by both actors and the wonderful script by Amanda Högberg (“Lost in Kyiv”) and Axel Nygren (“Lost in Kyiv”, “Knockout”).
Shanti Roney (“Vägen Ut”, “Häxdansen”) showcases great talent as Lukas, but it is newcomer Miriam Benthe in the role of Vendela who steals all the spotlight. She portrays with incredible skills all the subtlety of a character who could have so easily fallen to one extreme or another, so much so that it is surprising to learn that she has only played in two short films before this one.
It would be a miss not to mention the very well-crafted atmosphere that envelops us instantly into the cold Swedish nights and distressing high-school social hierarchy.
While Get Ready With Me is more a thriller than a moralistic fable, it still opens discussion on the effects of bullying and today’s fame culture – all the while avoiding common pitfalls like a senseless demonization of technology for example. What is really at the heart of the film, in the end, is a question; one that reads both as a horror film tagline and a relatable, genuine interrogation: how far would you go to fit in?