Film, Theater & TV Show Reviews

13 Reasons Why Review by Camille A. Angeles

Clay Jensen, a shy high school student, returns home from school one day to find that he has received a mysterious package in the mail. It contains seven double-sided cassette tapes used by Hannah Baker, a classmate who has recently committed suicide. Each tape details a reason that she killed herself.

Title: 13 Reasons Why

Network: Netflix

Year: 2017

Overall Rating: 8/10

Based on the book Written By Jay Asher

Directed by: Kyle Patrick Alvarez, Gregg Arraki, Carl Franklin, Tom McCarthy, Helen Shaver, Jessica Yu

Main Actors: Dylan Minnette as Clay Jensen, Katherine Langford as Hannah Baker, Christian Navarro as Tony, Justin Prentice as Bryce Walker, Miles Heizer as Alex Standall, Alisha Boe as Jessica Davis, Brandon Flynn as Justin Foley, Ross Butler as Zach Dempsey, Devin Druid as Tyler, Michele Selene Ang as Courtney Crimsen,

MPAA Rating: TV-MA

Warning: Please be aware there may be spoilers in this review and we’d hate to do that to you. So if you’ve seen the whole series, read away for Cam’s review! If not, it’s your choice as to whether you take the plunge 🙂

(Olmez, Volkan)

Hope in a Life Already Destroyed

Angeles, Camille A.

I told myself I’d make my little sister watch it once she was of age.

13 Reasons Why is a beautiful story laced with the saddest of potions and the clearest of messages. It was hard to finish watching, each episode screaming of so much wrong executed so controversially and realistically, tapping the most emotional parts of me.

The last episode is exactly what I wasn’t expecting but everything I was unknowingly hoping for.

It closed with such ease, such simplicity that it makes you wonder, “Well… is that it?”

Yes that is it. A life is cut off as easy as it is to realize the fact that indeed you have a choice. That fact becomes clouded however when person after person disappoints and instead of feeling hopeful for there are billions of others that roam the planet, you feel as if no other could possibly love nor put effort into you. Because how can one believe in hopeful “one days” when the very people around them, the very people he/she considers as friends are those conspiring to make their life an unconceivable hell?

Hannah Baker stepping into that bathtub, donning the blankest of expressions, was most especially hard to watch. It’s one thing when you hear of suicide on the news but it’s a whole new debacle when you watch it unfold in front of you. I didn’t think they’d show her slitting her wrists, honest to God I was expecting mere expressions and intense cries of pain with shots from the shoulder up but Katherine Langford was, hopefully not forced, successful in delivering a gut-wrenching, stirring performance of an emotionally mangled, crushed teenager. The nonchalance of Mrs. Baker, played by the outspoken Kate Walsh, knocking on the door and annoyingly scolding her daughter because the water had reached past the bathroom and into the hallway broke me.

They were simply parents, swallowing all the crap that parenting and life in general came with only to come home one day to realize that, in all their haste in providing and paving the way to a future, the present was forgotten. Their present, the “most beautiful woman in the family” had taken her life and it was displayed on the most normal day in the most normal circumstances, making it all the more disturbing.

Tears that hurt to cry stung my eyes and I felt dragged along with Hannah. Was I ever a Courtney Crimson to anyone? A Justin Foley, a Zach Dempsey? Yes, I am Hannah Baker on more than few occasions but the question really is: did I contribute to the 13 or more so reasons someone in the world had killed themselves? That’s the crux of the pain, the whole intention of the story I most solemnly believe. It stirs this demon within every soul, arises guilt from a place forgotten, like that time I slammed down a girl’s book while she was walking down the stairs. Her name was Catherine but with a “C”. She never did peel her eyes off a book, no teacher could make her.

The knowledge that I wasn’t Chinese nor did I wear the same outfit consecutively and have all but no friends to sit with at lunch got to my head. So I thought, and I thought wrongly, that I had the audacity to knock that chapter book out of her hand.

Is Catherine alright? Is she alive today? Perhaps still reading novels, maybe even creating some of her own? Or did she kill herself when people like me worsened throughout high school and life no longer became one worth living?

It’s this completely realistic, all-encompassing possibility that makes watching 13 Reasons Why so hard to watch, and so sickeningly personal.

(Carstens-Peters, Glenn)

But then came Clay Jensen, my favorite character throughout all of this (aside from Tony, what a guy). There is still so much pain that resides in his eyes yet amidst his dampened spirit stemmed hope. Perhaps stirred on by the fact that Bryce Walker had admitted to raping his best friend without knowing he was being recorded, therefore alluding that there is a chance at justice for all who’s been lost and gravely affected.

“Let’s stop thinking about what Hannah wants, but what she needs” he says to an exasperated Tony, unsure whether to continue concealing the truth or reveal it once and for all.

Along the journey of listening to the tapes and learning things about people so horrid to fathom, once submissive and reluctant Clay had grown and become bold and aware. There are constant shots of him walking the hallways of Liberty High throughout the series, either with his eyes cast downward or solely focused on the person whom was on the tape he was currently listening to. In the last episode however, after he walks out of Mr. Porter’s office, he gazes at the faces that pass by. And I particularly loved this scene because it blooms said hope in what was such a dire situation for all of these young people. Hannah Baker awoke a small community in the biggest way and because of her; eyes were opened to the truth.

Her death was no waste.

Which begs the question, was Alex Standall’s suicide a necessary stratagem in an already stirring series?

I put a lot of thought into his death, and wondered why and how and what drove such a twist of decision in a straight-to-the-point, hard-headed Alex. He was the most sane of all those on the tapes because he had grasped their reality and accepted it much earlier than anyone else. You can tell, barely into the story that he was seething with anger at the lies they sat on and the truths they buried (in which Courtney was persistent to say the least).

Why this ultimate, horrid end? Why subject to the fate of his once best friend Hannah Baker? Did he not learn anything from her unfortunate death?

The answer cannot be answered by a yes or a no, but an “I should’ve known.”

You become so scooped into the life of Hannah and what led her to her death and the stories of the people behind the tapes, that, much like what happened to Mr. and Mrs. Baker, you do not see what is happening right under your nose. Alex Standall, played so raw and real by Miles Heizer, wanted to kill himself. From the scene in Bryce Walkers backyard, when he plunged into the pool, to his submissive behavior for the future, “I don’t have any plans”, to the way he dived into trouble without the slightest care for his life.

He was there for all of us to set our eyes upon but we were all blind and oblivious to the simple truth that he wanted to end his life.

“Suicide doesn’t stop depression; it just transfers to someone else.” (Berces, Julie)

(Wilson, Mike)

And that’s what’s so enthralling about this series. It not only tells the story of Hannah Baker but it awakens you to the truth. As an audience, you become educated and motivated to project more love. And you realize as the ending credits roll that a heartbeat is just easily shunned silent as it is to make a choice. To simply smile and show, in any way it may be, that you care.

Hannah Baker waited for Mr. Porter to go after her that day she took her own life. He was the 13th tape she never planned on making, the last hope in a life already destroyed.

About the Author

Name: Camille A. Angeles

An open-minded anti-social socialist committed to quenching the thirst of those looking for good music and brutally honest yet wholesome words.  To sum it up, I sing and conjure written words that are better than anything I could ever physically communicate.

Accounts:

Twitter: @camilleanne10

Instagram: jbcaca

 

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