What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this agonizing drama is a heavy-handed but still powerful and thought-provoking treatise on both teens' and adults' capacity to be destructive on social networks. It includes some hard-to-watch scenes of suicide attempts and online bullying. Also expect some swearing, play-by-play of discomfiting online chats, and self-abuse (cutting). There are also references to sex acts, one of which becomes a rumor that rapidly devastates a teen.
What's the story?
Teenage Catharine (Lily Holleman) is troubled -- she cuts herself, barely eats, and is stricken with malaise she can't shake -- but finds respite online at @urFRENZ, a social networking site. While logged on, she's chatted up by a guy named Brandon who's empathetic and attentive. Little does Catharine know that "Brandon" is really the mother of a former friend (Gayla Goehl) pretending to be someone she's not so she can find out whether Catharine is responsible for spreading rumors about her daughter, Madison (Najarra Townsend), a popular girl who's masking her own depression. A literal and figurative web as tangled as this can't go on without a tragic hitch.
Is it any good?
When it's not pounding you over the head with its off-putting scared-straight tactics and overwrought messages about online anonymity, @urFRENZ is actually compelling. With its ripped-from-the-headlines story and atmospheric cinematography, it provokes viewers to think about the darker side of online friendships and social networking (frightening parents along the way).
Ignore the over-acting and sometimes heavy-handed plot-pushing, and there's plenty of material here to spark (hopefully) meaningful conversations with teens (it's a little too macabre for younger audiences). How do we really know who we're talking to online? Are social networks a safe outlet for teens who can't share their feelings in person, or are they cloaks for bullies? The answer in real life is much more nuanced than what @urFRENZ offers, but it's an interesting watch nonetheless.
Families can talk about...
Parents, talk to your teens about cyberbullying. What roles can you play in helping to prevent it?
How does the movie handle the topic of teen depression? Does it seem authentic? Teens: How many kids do you know who are going through this right now?