“We’re All Going to the World’s Fair” review

Haley Soares, Senior Staff Reporter

person with neon green on their face and arms holding a cheerio in front of their eye
Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival

This Sunday, Jan. 31, I had the pleasure of witnessing the world premiere of director Jane Schoenbrun’s debut narrative feature “We’re All Going to the World’s Fair” at the virtual Sundance Film Festival. 

The film opens on the teenage Casey, portrayed by Anna Cobb, sitting in front of her computer screen about to embark upon the “World’s Fair Challenge” — an internet game wherein the participant experiences unsettling physical side effects. This opening shot is particularly jarring and catapulted me back into the shoes of my 13-year-old self naively exploring the weird dark corners of the internet. 

Working with the budget of a small indie film, Schoenbrun effectively captures the essence of the creepypasta era of the internet in a way that I don’t think a major production could have accomplished. The majority of the film takes place in Casey’s bedroom, with the remainder of the story mostly weaved together with various forms of internet footage — Skype calls, videos, forum posts and the like. 

The fact that so much of the film happened in such a confined space did make for a slow-moving plot at times, but even with a lack of space cinematographer Daniel Patrick Carbone managed to keep it visually interesting with an inventive use of diegetic light sources that subtly hinted at the mental state of Casey. 

Cobb, in her feature film debut, impressed with her ability to captivate an audience with her performance. According to Schoenbrun, Cobb studied the script so intensely that by the time they were ready to film she had thought through every minor facial expression and movement. This young actress is already mastering her own unique style, certainly proving herself to be someone to keep an eye on. 

Schoenbrun hand-picked some of the most versatile and talented individuals to work alongside on this film, even landing a score by indie musician Alex G. Scrolling through many a Letterboxd review of “We’re All Going to the World’s Fair,” audiences are split on their opinions of the film itself, but Alex G’s score appears to be a universal crowd-pleaser. 

The final act of the film left audiences with a pile of questions and interpretations, but in the Q&A that followed the film’s debut Schoenbrun was adamant that it was meant to sit with the viewers and morph in our minds as we process the film and consequently would not indulge any of the group’s questions about the ambiguous ending, encouraging us instead to “go with the ending, wherever it takes you.