If you thought US teen dramas 13 Reasons Why and Riverdale were dark, Euphoria takes it a whole new level. At first glance, it would be easy to assume Euphoria shares the same sugar-coated melodrama about American high school as these popular shows do. However, the controversial new HBO series digs deeper than this. Euphoria unravels the twisted side of suburban America, revealing what is – unfortunately – a more accurate reality for modern adolescents.
Ex-Disney star Zendaya dazzles as the angsty 17-year-old Rue, recently returning from rehab with no intention to stay clean. Having suffered various mental health issues as a child, Rue neglects her prescribed pills in exchange for recreational ones. But despite her selfish habits and oppressively pessimistic views, we can’t help bust instantly respect her poignant, surprisingly mature outlook on life.
Euphoria launches viewers into the world of sex, drugs and partying very early on in the series. Almost as a warning to more sensitive viewers, Euphoria makes it instantly clear that these themes are not as glamorous as many shows make out. Abuse, violence and body shaming ring through the show constantly. Of course, this received a conflicted response when Euphoria was first aired. Whereas some may view the show as crude and overly explicit, many have saluted its bravery for exposing the harsh truth of drug addiction.
For all of Euphoria’s heavy brutality, there are also many touching – even nostalgic – moments that make it a little easier to watch. Director Jennifer Morrison incorporates streaks of black comedy through Rue’s matter-of-fact narration and humorous comments. The spellbinding cinematography has superb comedic timing, as well as depicting the effects of drugs in creative ways. Hazy out-of-focus shots and Inception-like spinning rooms encapsulate Rue’s hallucinogenic experiences. And while fun, the camerawork also exposes the dangers of such effects as viewers become displaced from reality.
Standing by in Rue’s unpredictable, drug-fueled adventures is semi-romantic best friend Jules (Hunter Schafer). Also hauling a sad backstory and fair dose of trauma, the two make an unconventionally beautiful duo. The entire cast deliver impressive performances – especially Zendaya, who proves her talent for raw, emotional acting.
Euphoria is as stunning as it is powerful, tackling controversial issues without an ounce of hesitation. Each of the eight episodes are packed with dizzying drama, gripping viewers from beginning to end. The coming-of-age story glitters with heroin-chic, throwing out some harrowing bombshells. The final cliff hanger teases audiences with a possible second season, which although has not been confirmed, has not been denied either.
Euphoria is available for UK audiences on NOW TV, Amazon Prime and Sky Atlantic.Powered by Sidelines