I can remember driving around Los Angeles and seeing billboards for Billie Eilish’s debut album “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” A white void in place of her eyes, I wasn’t entirely sure what her music was or even how big she had become. Then, one evening, while listening to a curated playlist on Apple Music, I heard a song that sent me spiraling into a whirlwind of emotions. Eilish’s song ‘I Love You’ tore through my heart, and, as though under a spell, I repeated the song over and over again.
In the new documentary by R.J. Cutler titled Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry, we see Billie and her brother Finneas O’Connell in the last stages of writing ‘I Love You.’ She’s only 16 years old, and her controlled, melancholy whispers feel immediately reflective of someone beyond her years. When she finishes singing the song for her parents, her father remarks that it reminds him of another artist who sang a similar tune. Billie scoffs, agonized that he would compare the song to someone else, but her mother chimes in and suggests that Billie’s father was only referring to the music’s feelings. It’s this teenage, relatable moment that makes this documentary so compelling.
The documentary is a look at Billie’s meteoric rise to stardom, from songwriting in her bedroom with Finneas to playing, at the young age of 17, to mesmerizing the crowds at Coachella. We see her jumping on stage and injuring herself, to being cheered on by her beloved fans who relish in even the sight of a single foot. The entire movie is a collection of videos Billie and her family recorded during her debut album’s formative months and its subsequent release.
This is the birth of a superstar played out like Boyhood. Billie grows before our eyes, taking currency in her image and eventually deciding that she will not let someone else direct her in a music video. One pivotal scene shows Billie blocking a music video for When the Party’s Over with her mother acting like a mannequin, changing her movements according to Billie’s instructions. She has an idea to have black tears falling down her face, and during the filming of the video, we see her team fitting her with small hoses leading across her eyebrows and down to the tips of her eyes. Per Billie’s instructions, the camera holds onto her face without zooming in or out. Viewers are forced to sit with the song’s emotion and the image of Billie Eilish producing black tears.
The video has almost 700 million views on YouTube, and it’s her vision come to life.
Whether you’re a fan of Billie Eilish or just curious to see what the fuss is about, there is no doubt this documentary will convert you. It is an honest, raw, and often amusing depiction of teenage stardom that is hugely affecting. Just watch as Billie meets her teen idol Justin Bieber and is struck speechless only by him looking at her. He even calls her after her Grammy sweep, and, like the teenager she is, she gushes over speaking to her childhood crush.
We even see snippets of her relationship with a guy named Q and how the relationship’s end leads to Billie breaking down mid-song during one of her concerts. She sits beside Finneas on a bed raised high in the air and sings, ‘I Love You.’ When the backing music is mostly silent at the final chorus, Billie struggles to finish the lyrics, breaking down in tears, and her fans, adoringly, cry along with her and cheer beside her.
She is a superstar but also knows there is a lot that she is missing out on. Yet this is only just the beginning of her career.