“I Saw the TV Glow”: Nostalgia and the Surrealist Horror of Jane Schoenbrun


“I Saw the TV Glow” marks A24’s latest venture into surrealist horror, directed by Jane Schoenbrun. This sophomore film follows their highly unique debut, “We’re All Going to the World’s Fair.” In this film, Schoenbrun explores themes of nostalgia, identity, and the intersection between reality and media through the story of two teenagers whose lives are intertwined with a supernatural TV show.

Plot Summary

The narrative revolves around two teenagers who bond over their love for a supernatural TV show called “The Pink Opaque.” Set in 1996, a significant portion of the movie explores their obsession with the show and the dark periods of their lives that follow its mysterious cancellation. The film delves into how this shared fixation affects their perceptions of reality and shapes their identities.

Nostalgia and ’90s Television

One of the film’s most compelling aspects is its deep dive into ’90s television, particularly young adult shows. For those who grew up during that era, the references to shows like “Are You Afraid of the Dark?,” “Goosebumps,” “Eerie Indiana,” and “The Secret World of Alex Mack” evoke a strong sense of nostalgia. These shows were more than mere entertainment; they were formative experiences that provided escape and taught storytelling fundamentals. Schoenbrun captures this nostalgia perfectly, creating a film that feels like a warm yet eerie trip down memory lane.

Themes and Execution

“I Saw the TV Glow” is not just a nostalgic journey; it is a complex exploration of how media can distort our reality. The film questions whether our obsession with fictional worlds can blur the lines between fiction and reality, leading to a dreamlike perception of the past. Schoenbrun’s direction and the film’s editing reinforce this surreal atmosphere, with deliberate pauses in dialogue and a trance-like visual style that supports the narrative’s themes.

The film also addresses broader existential questions about identity and self-perception. One poignant moment features a character, Owen, who, when asked about his sexual orientation, responds that he thinks he likes TV shows. This encapsulates the film’s exploration of uncertainty in identity and the struggle to find one’s place in the world.

Visual and Auditory Elements

The cinematography, sound design, and score play crucial roles in establishing the film’s nostalgic yet unsettling tone. The meticulously recreated ’90s aesthetic, combined with a hauntingly beautiful score, creates an immersive experience that feels like stepping into a memory. This sensory approach is integral to the film’s impact, resonating deeply with viewers who share the director’s nostalgic connection to that era.

Interpretations and Discussions

One of the film’s strengths is its open-ended nature, inviting multiple interpretations. After watching the movie, viewers may find themselves having different takes on its meaning, much like the author and a friend did. This ambiguity is reminiscent of abstract art, where each person’s perspective is valid, enriching the overall experience. Such a film invites viewers to engage with it on a personal level, making it a unique cinematic experience.


“I Saw the TV Glow” is a thought-provoking, visually stunning film that masterfully blends nostalgia with surrealist horror. While it may not satisfy those seeking clear-cut answers, it offers a richly layered narrative open to interpretation. Schoenbrun’s ability to evoke a deep sense of nostalgia while exploring profound themes makes this film a standout. For those who appreciate films that challenge the norm and invite introspection, “I Saw the TV Glow” is a must-see. It’s a cinematic journey that feels both deeply personal and universally relatable, capturing the essence of an era while probing the complexities of human experience.

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