“You’re not the only one who had an awkward phase.”
Directed by: Mike Mayer
Mortified Nation is a documentary about adults who share their most embarrassing, private childhood writings… in front of total strangers. The film blends performance footage of these public confessions with an examination of the rise of Mortified stage shows, and chronicles how the simple act of exposing one’s private past can inspire an entire nation to “share the shame.” Transporting viewers back to a time of awkward firsts– first love, first rejection, first total freak out– the film captures the adolescent experience in a way few of us truly remember and most of us tried to forget.
Surprisingly sweet, hilarious and awkward in equal measures, Mortified Nation paints a warts and all sort of picture of American youth. The childhood diaries of the now adult participants of the show are a mixed bag, ranging from hysterical, to shocking, to genuinely moving. An interview with a current teen in the film’s opening segment highlights the fact the at the time of writing you would never consider sharing your deepest thoughts, secrets and feelings with a room of strangers. So why on Earth would people share their diaries as adults? As the film puts it, we all have an awkward phase. For the participants it’s a cathartic experience, and one which is certainly admirable. If only we knew back then what we know now.
Intertwined with footage of the participant’s “performances” are interviews with the performers, the founders of the show, and experts, providing background and analysis on youth, growing up and coping with the world around you as a child. These portions add meat to the bones of documentary, but the film sadly never digs down much deeper than surface level, with the actual on stage readings providing the most interesting insight into the participants and that difficult stage of life. There is certainly more that could have been explored here, particularly considering brief running time. So therefore rather than being a thorough documentation of youth, dealing with violence, sexuality, and coming of age, it becomes more of a documentary about the show which just touches upon these themes.
Whilst it’s not the most deep or complex of documentaries, it is effective, moving, relatable and funny. Hats off to the participants of Mortified Nation, they are brave souls indeed.
Everyone’s childhood is awkward at times. Just some are more awkward than others. And enjoyable yet slight documentary.
Rating (out of 5):