Directed by: Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman
Screenplay by: Jessica Sharzer
Based on the novel by: Jeanne Ryan
Starring: Emma Roberts, Dave Franco, Emily Meade, Miles Heizer, Colson Baker, Kimiko Glenn, Marc John Jefferies, Brian Marc, Samira Wiley and Juliette Lewis.
NERVE is a thrill ride with directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman putting the audience in the middle of the action. Shot in New York, the camera work and streetscapes made the film more entertaining and better than expected.
Vee (Emma Roberts) is living in the shadow of her best buddy, Sydney (Emily Meade). Always the cautious, wilting violet, Vee is terrified of putting a step wrong until she’s had enough of being a loser in love and life.
Sydney, being the dare devil, has managed to make it to the Top 10 of a new online game, NERVE, where the Players earn money and fame by completing dares given by the Watches.
And Vee, sick of towing the line, feels a wave of reckless youth and takes the plunge into the world of being a Player.
Knowing that she’s pushing her limits but finding a part of herself that she likes, Vee meets the hunky Ian (Dave Franco). Loving the couple, the Watches dare the partnership on more challenging dares until the dare becomes a sinister reflection of mob mentality – where being anonymous allows behaviour that borders then becomes that of a sociopath.
It’s all about the moment recorded via the Watches’ camera phones; information about the Players taken from social media and everything available online: purchases made, banking details. The film highlights how much information is available and how easy it is to take over a person’s life via the internet.
NERVE makes the point it’s no longer Big Brother we need to be afraid of, it’s us who are recording and sharing with each other.
Based on a young adult novel written by Jeanne Ryan, teens living adolescent lives leads to the expected awkward moments of unrequited love and the usual we’re-best-friends behaviour. Thankfully, I was happily absorbed into the action of the online game rather than the film dwelling on the drama.
The character Vee had cringe-worthy moments, but only a few. And the adolescent aspect was overcome by the creative camera work; where the audience was taken along for the ride.
NERVE was a lot of fun but I found it hard to take seriously when the story turned into the realm of giving a lesson.
Tapping into the teen angst of wanting to break free was still present and this was shown with unexpected edge. I enjoyed the ride but the attempt at depth gave the film more meat not more meaning: we’ve already heard about the dangers of social media, right?
But drawing the audience into the world of NERVE and being given the feeling of taking those dares along with the characters made a suspenseful and entertaining film.