Aspiring YouTuber Vendela posts a video for a class presentation, but its dark message, combined with its cheerily mordant tone, disturbs her teacher Lukas. He begins to fear for her mental health and even her life, fearing she will harm herself — or worse, commit suicide.
He tries to intervene, but his actions set off an unpredictable game of cat-and-mouse between teacher and student. With each move in this evolving game of power, the dynamic between the pair escalates to strange, unexpected places — especially as it’s increasingly played out on social media, with calamitous results.
Director Jonatan Etzler — along with writers Amanda Hogbert and Axel Nygren — has fashioned a taut, compelling thriller that scrutinizes the ravenous hunger for attention and distinction, particularly as it intersects with the mores of social media fame, the impact on mental health and the manipulation capable with video and public narratives. It seems to begin as a straightforward narrative about bullying and a feel-good intervention by a caring adult on behalf of a passive victim. But as it proceeds, it twists like a Moebius strip onto itself, revealing a dark yet riveting underbelly.
Chilling and incisive, this is a dark, psychologically disturbing narrative, rendered in a darkly muted, shadowy color palette and coolly clinical and disciplined camerawork, both of which suit the subject matter and the somber Swedish setting.
But the foundation is an excellent storyline and script, which is adroitly constructed and well-paced in its writing and editing. Possessing superb character insight, as well as an acute eye for how the arena of social attention shapes action and behavior, the narrative is alive to how teenagers jockey for status through their social media, how easily posts, videos and “content” can be weaponized — and how easily perceptions can be manipulated to shift and mold the sympathies of the viewer.
The film’s own storytelling exhibits a tight control over the release of information and insight, playing with our own understanding of what’s going on and why. This masterful shifting is aided and abetted by two superb lead performances. Actor Shanti Roney plays the teacher with both great compassion and sensitivity, but the revelation is young performer Miriam Benthe as Vendela, who manages the difficult trick of offering insight, nuance and moments of both surprising vulnerability and callous amorality with subtlety and skill. She takes what could easily be a nasty, unsubtle role and parlays it into something much more complex and compelling.
A winner at the 2018 Student Academy Awards, “Get Ready With Me” is an immaculately crafted work of cinema, made with precision and discernment. It’s also a deft, keenly intelligent thriller, whose storytelling prowess is enough to keep viewers pulled along through unpredictable waters and whose arc has unusual depth and movement for a short.
But its real strength lies in its ability to provoke thought and discussion. It asks age-old questions of how far people will go to fit in, but its responsiveness to the current cultural moment may cause us all to question just what kind of world we are creating with each post, like and comment. The film is too smart and perceptive to offer answers, but instead lets its questions sit uneasily in both memory and conscience, letting them gnaw at the margins of awareness.