13 Reasons Why (2017)A review by Shlomoh Sherman
May 4, 2017
13 Reasons Why (2017)
Creator: Brian Yorkey
Stars: Dylan Minnette, Katherine Langford, Christian Navarro -
Plot Summary: 13 episodes follow teenager Clay Jensen, in his quest to uncover the story behind his classmate and crush, Hannah, and her decision to end her life.
Plot Keywords: suicide - based on novel - mental illness - depression - narrative
Genres: Drama - Mystery
Parents Guide: See below
Release Date: March 31 2017 (USA)
Filming Location: Vallejo, California, USA
Production Co: July Moon Productions, Kicked to the Curb Productions, Anonymous Content
Runtime: 60 min
I normally do not write reviews on TV miniseries. Usually my reviews are on major motion pictures appearing in theaters or on HBO or SHOWTIME movies. But I must say that 13 Reasons Why has absolutely so affected me emotionally that I feel it necessary to make those of you who have not yet seen this devastatingly poignant story of teenage suicide aware that it is a must see for all, especially parents of teenagers.
"Based on the best-selling book by Jay Asher, the film series follows teenager Clay Jensen as he returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers a group of cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush, who tragically committed suicide two weeks earlier. On tape, Hannah unfolds an emotional audio diary, detailing the thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Through Hannah and Clay's dual narratives, Thirteen Reasons Why weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect viewers."
Teenage bullying is not a new phenomenon. It existed when I was in high school, it existed when my daughter was in high school, and it exists today when my grand-daughter is nearing high scool age. But there is a difference. Something has been lost, and something has been added to amplify the perniciousness, the intensity, the cruelty and the danger.
What has been lost is the idea that bullying has to have a limit. Earlier generations knew and accepted the ideals of decency, ethics and morals inherited from our parents and grandparents in basically stable homes. Today many homes and families are no longer stable. Today, according to statistics which can be found simply on Google, teenagers have fewer friends than we had when we were their age. Today, fewer people adhere to religious faiths that gave our ancestors a firm grounding in right and wrong. Today there is no longer any privacy and there is a general feeling that "anythng goes". This is what has been lost.
What has been added to our society is the Electronic Revolution. While this revolution has radically changed our civilization for the better, it has also created a situation in which almost everyone in our society owns his and her own personal printing press, his and her own personal movie studio, his and her own personal radio and TV station, - all of these encased in a rather small, innocent looking box sitting on our desks or on our laps. Given this, the Electronic Revolution has given us the power to be gods or devils. Sadly, many of us choose the latter.
Before our era, yes, you could bully someone weaker than yourself but that bullying was confined to the schoolyeard or the locker room. It was not broadcast worldwide so to encourage others to then join and participate in your own satanic behavior. and because the episodes of bullying could be kept at a local level, it allowed the victims to grow older and move on with their lives. I was bullied as a teenager but I could avoid it most of the time if I kept out of the bully's way. There is no way for todays' teens to keep out of the way of the cell phone camera or the Facebook post or the Tweet.
The frontal part of the teenage brain is not yet fully developed and so it is more difficult for teens than for us to picure a time when the meanspiritedness and persecution will stop or for teens to open to adults to let us know how they are suffering. Parents sre stymied by the fact that the kids "won't open up." But for teens [as well as for some adults], opening up to an adult is seen as being cowardly [or "pussies"] and confiding in the enemy. [In an earlier time, I think it was couched as "You can't trust anyone over the age of 30".]
The protagonist, Hannah Baker, although she is a lovely and sweet girl, is thrust into an intollerable role as the VICTIM in her senior high school. This comes about as a result of allowing one of the nasty boys in her school to touch her in very intimate ways. As we say today, a photo of the act "goes viral." This particular boy is popular. A quote from the series says, "The most popular kids are the meanest. That's how they become popular." HANNAH is the Hebrew word for "Grace" but the anti-heroine of the series leads an increasingly graceless life.
One of the really negative characteristics of human nature is to put down others in order to put the negative focus on them and remove it ourselves. This has happened between nations, between religions, between races, and certainly in highschool society, between teenagers.
The most sympathetic characters are Hannah, Clay and Tony. Clay and Tony are well-meaning but ultimately they are only teenagers with their own problems and an inability to save Hannah.
Hannah becomes the victim of ever growing abuse. She becomes subjected finally to sexual abuse. Her friends abandon her at the time when she needs them most. The school staff shows itself incompetent to help her. Her one friend, Clay Jensen, who claims to love her, is emotionally incapable of defending or protecting her. When at last, he shows her physical affection, she has already reached the point where she cannot accept it. Her parents are well-meaning but like so many teenagers, she cannot tell them what she is suffering. This however has more to do with her sense of empathy than anything else. They are going through financial difficulties and she does not want to burden them with her own problems. She is truly the ideal, loving daughter who honors and respects them. But in the end, even they are unable to stop her predictable descent into disintegration.
Hannah decides to remove herself from life, from more pain which see sees as ongoing without any hope. She makes 13 tapes, each about a particular person who has failed her, including both students and school staff. It is up to Tony and Clay to distribute them but before all 13 tapes reach their intended recipients, Hannah's parents initiate a law suit against the school for its failure to become aware of Hannah's grief and to prevent her death. Clay's anguish is intensified by the fact that his mother, who is an attorney, has taken on the job of defending the school in the lawsuit. Yet there is nothing he can do about it.
I find that Hannah's choice of using a technologically outmoded form of recording, audio-tapes, interesting. What were the writers thinking? Audio tapes were in vogue before the Electronic Revolution. Are the tapes some iconic way of taking us back to a more innocent age? What do you think?
This is a must watch series for everyone although I am issuing a warning. The scenes of rape and suicide are disturbingly graphic. They are unnerving. There are notices beginning several episodes telling the viewer that what follows may not be appropriate for minors. My personal opinion is that minors are able to handle more than we give them credit for. But parents and guardians might want to view these episodes first before deciding if their minors can see them.
Although most reviews are favorable, there are dissenting voices. One such can be found at https://www.buzzfeed.com/jennaguillaume/experts-warn-13-reasons-why-puts-teens-at-risk?utm_term=.jo4rLAxEl#.lqLjgYRdo [Why People Are Saying "13 Reasons Why" Is A Dangerous Show]. I'm sure you will be able to find both favorable and unfavorable reviews on your own.
Finally, I usually offer KUDOS to actors and writers in my reviews. But here, they would just go on and on because all the young actors are outstanding. You can see their own perspectives on the series and on the roles that they played here:
My one exception to the above is to acknowledge the beautiful, young British actress, Katherine Langford, who plays Hannah. Some of the scenes must have been emotionally difficult for her but she has acquitted herself admirably. I look forward to seeing more of her in future films.
I will be interested in hearing input from you on this series. You can email me at email@example.com
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Did You Know?
The Night We MetLord Huron7934.1k Clay has a nightmare about the dance; Clay sees Hannah in the gym; Clay and Hannah dance before Montgomery confronts Hannah. s01e05 - Tape 3, Side A
Sex & Nudity:
Violence & Gore:
Suggested MPAA rating: R for disturbing material involving sexual assaults and a graphic scene of suicide, language throughout, sexuality, drinking, and drug use - all involving teens
"13 Reasons Why" Episodes
Series cast summary:
Dylan Minnette ... Clay Jensen
Katherine Langford ... Hannah Baker
Christian Navarro ... Tony Padilla
Alisha Boe ... Jessica Davis
Brandon Flynn ... Justin Foley
Justin Prentice ... Bryce Walker
Miles Heizer ... Alex Standall
Ross Butler ... Zach Dempsey
Devin Druid ... Tyler Down
Amy Hargreaves ... Lainie Jensen
Derek Luke ... Kevin Porter
Kate Walsh ... Olivia Baker
Steven Silver ... Marcus Cole
Michele Selene Ang ... Courtney Crimsen
Brian d'Arcy James ... Andy Baker
Josh Hamilton ... Matt Jensen
Ajiona Alexus ... Sheri Holland
Bryan Box ... Jamie Garrison
Tommy Dorfman ... Ryan Shaver
Bryan Irwin Thompson ... Jock
Sosie Bacon ... Skye Miller
Timothy Granaderos ... Montgomery
Steven Weber ... Principal Gary Bolan
Keiko Agena ... Pam Bradley
Brandon Larracuente ... Jeff Atkins
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