Tegan and Sara are a Canadian duo that has been writing and performing their indie-pop music for nearly 30 years. This has already resulted in many Grammy nominations, world tours, and nine studio albums. But, while the identical twins are now world stars, they used to be like many of us as there was a time when they searched for their identity and who they were. Their teenage years were filled with teen anxiety, queer and trying to keep that strong sister bond. That story is now brought to life by creator Clea DuVall (“Happiest Season”, “The Intervention”) in “High School”, and just like Tegan and Sara’s music, the series is delightful, personal and emotional.
You know that “High School” will be pretty up-close and devasting because it’s adapted from Tegan Quin and Sara’s best-selling memoir. The series takes you back to Calgary in the ’90s. Starting sophomore year is always equally exciting and nerve-wracking, but for the sisters, it’s even rougher as they’re the new kids on the blocks.
Usually, the sisters support each other throughout this challenging period, but this time, it’s different. Tensions have been running high at home due to Sara (Seazynn Gilliland) overlooking Tegan (Railey Gilliland) to spend time with (girl)friend Phoebe. The almost-broken bond results in both Sara and Tegan trying to make new friends and take distance from each other.
While it’s not easy at first, time heals all wounds. Like many teenagers, they party, drink, try drugs and fall in love. Meanwhile, their mom is trying to keep the household running, but that’s difficult. She has to juggle her demanding job as a social worker, her broken relationship with her lifelong partner and, of course, her rebellious daughters.
The first three episodes, recently screened at the BFI London Film Festival, are mainly about Tegan and Sara, but you also hear the stories of the people around them. Every story is divided by simple cue cards, and sometimes you see the same event happing from a different perspective. No matter whose chapter it is, you will see a story full of emotions, secrets, hope, love and loss.
When hearing the words ‘high school’ and ‘teenage drama’, you probably think this series would provide you with the usual amount of gossip, overdramatic scenes, dirty secrets and the excessive usage of emotions. But, this time, it’s different. Clea DuVall, who portrayed Graham in “But I’m a Cheerleader”, certainly knows how to bring delicate topics such as finding your (queer) identity, difficult high school years and teenage emotions in a balanced and sensitive way. This is because those topics are close to her heart and her strong friendship with Tegan and Sara.
If you’re expecting to hear the music of Tegan and Sara, then we might have disappointing news for you. You won’t hear any of their songs, at least not during the opening episodes. This is mainly because the series focuses on the sisters being typical teenagers, not the musicians they’ve become. However, still, the series has a killer soundtrack. During our interview, Duvall mentioned that she chose music from ’90s icons such as The Smashing Pumpkins, Weezer, PJ Harvey and Green Day. The era was a magnificent one when it came to music, so why not use that to the fullest?
To heighten the authentic vibe of this movie, even more, DuVall decided to cast twins for the leading role, who are unknown to the film and television world. “High School” is the debut of both Railey and Seazynn Gilliland, and what a beautiful, endearing and honest debut it is. There are some clever clues from the series makers to ensure that you can separate the two sisters from each other. Think of the punch Tegan gives Sara in the first few minutes and the different necklaces. While both Railey and Seazynn don’t know if they want to continue their acting careers, we hope they do. They already have tons of talent, and once they gain more experience, we know their performances will become even more genuine and touching.
If you want to check out this sweet, moving and accurate tale about sisterhood, friends, family love and teenage problems, then Amazon Freevee (the free section of Prime Video) is the place-to-be. While the bite-size episodes (each 1h15min) of “High School” are delved underneath the bombastic and popular content, it pays off to look for this smaller and unique series.
“High School” is now available on Amazon Freevee.
14th October 2022
THE QUICK SELL
Based on the autobiographical book High School by Tegan and Sara.