Influencers are everywhere, not a year of Strictly goes by without at least one Instagram or YouTube personality being present. For the most part it's harmless enough, tone-deafness aside, tips on make-up or watching two guys shoot each other with nerf guns can be pretty entertaining, but there is a dark heart to the social media world. Not Okay is a black comedy that looks into how the desire to be seen, in this increasingly screen based world, becomes a satire on our desire for heroes and villains.
We meet Zoey Deutch's Danni, a picture editor at a nondescript website. Her isolated existence and desire to be a writer leads her to decide to fake a trip to Paris to gain followers and the attention of problematic whiteboy Colin (Dylan O'Brien). What should be an Emily in Paris style photoshop job becomes bigger when Paris is beset with terrorist attacks and Danni becomes the face of survivors.
Deutch is magnetic in the leading role, at times as vapid as a Kardashian (name-checked several times), her character arc is one that you buy into. Despite the assertion at the start that viewer discretion is advised, for an unlikeable female protagonist Danni is likeable. Her work place is a textbook hostile environment, her attempts to connect to people are undone by her own awkward nature and the fact that everyone has their guard up.
The film does have fun with the sense of madness that comes from finding the face of tragedy, not least in her father Brennan Brown's perpetual sobbing. It's when the film introduces Mia Isaac as school shooting survivor Rowan that the film hits it's stride. Not only is the chemistry between Deutch and Isaac brilliant but you do get the sense that there is something stirring within Danni. Isaac brings a raw intensity to her young woman thrust into activism role well.
Writer/ Director Quinn Shephard is stylish in her direction, able to blend flashy montages of the growing hashtag #IAmNotOkay that grows with Danni's story. Along with moments of genuine horror as Danni becomes haunted by the spectre of the bomber. This is by no means the first film to deal with someone posing as a victim to gain something – last year's stinker Dear Evan Hanson had a similar storyline but here what we get is something with a much nastier edge.
The film is at it's strongest when it's looking at trauma, the fact that Danni is shown the good life she wanted with Colin and the fame and that actually making a difference is much better. The film threatens to go deeper into political discourse, rallies interrupted and the internet's desire to turn victims into heroes and then villains is shown all-too-briefly, but there is enough to carry the film to it's emotional climax.
The film asks a very interesting question: if something good comes from a lie does it undermine the good? Shephard doesn't answer the question, but instead leaves it hanging.
Not Okay is available to watch now on Disney+