Content warning: suicide, self-harm
To many, the self-proclaimed “bad guy” Billie Eilish is fearless. The devilishly charismatic 18-year-old is powerful and poetic, a walking paradox of meshed unattainability and relatability. Her icy eyes hold an unfazed stare as if she’s gazing into futuristic gloom, and she paints this shadowy realm into reality with her hauntingly beautiful pop music. It is her fate to bring this realm to life, and in the Apple TV+ documentary “Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry,” Eilish comes to terms with the world she’s built.
Directed by R.J. Cutler and released Feb. 26, the documentary rarely wastes a moment of its two-hour runtime. Cutler lets Eilish speak for herself, and by avoiding scripted narration and trite formalities, the film revels in its portrayal of authenticity. It vigilantly evades the difficulties that come with telling a tale old as time, distancing itself from mushy conglomerates of fame, fans and lost family time: It’s a truly intimate lens into Eilish’s life, not just her career.
Its juxtaposition of adolescence and fame offers simple but effective insight into Eilish’s character, lending the film delightful charm — one moment Eilish is writing “Bad Guy,” and the next she’s studying for her driving permit test. The documentary also sparks some genuine laughs: What’s more entertaining than Eilish realizing who Orlando Bloom is after meeting him? (“I thought he was just some dude Katy Perry met,” she gasps.)
Many musician documentaries mention family only fleetingly, depicting joyful moments of returning home from tour. But as “The World’s A Little Blurry” heartwarmingly portrays, Eilish’s family is always there for her. Supporting her anywhere from their Los Angeles home to backstage at sold-out shows, her older brother Finneas O’Connell and her parents are a consistent, warm presence in her life.
The documentary skillfully highlights Eilish’s endearing relationship with her brother. Any fan knows that Eilish makes music with O’Connell, but the film shows that they were destined to make music together. Trading lyrics as often as they trade jokes, the siblings write and produce monumental pop hits all from their childhood home.
As shown through her time with O’Connell, Eilish is deeply involved with her creative process. She inks journals with nightmarish monsters, black ooze, spider webs and grim poems that twist into lyrics; her vision for the art she wants to make is strikingly clear, and she makes sure that everyone knows it. “Don’t zoom! Don’t do anything like these bozo f—ing filmmakers do when they try to have it not be boring,” she dictates when filming her vision for a music video. “I’m telling you, don’t be an idiot.”
But, as “The World’s A Little Blurry” emphasizes, the necessity for this strict execution of her artistic vision blossoms from something dark. As she flips through the gloomiest pages of her journal, Eilish reflects on her younger self always having Band-Aids on her wrists, admitting that “I didn’t think that I would make it to this age.” It’s clear that her music is more than liberation or comfort: It’s a necessary outlet. Eilish’s blue eyes bore into the screen as she reflects on pain; the camera lingers on her, extracting revelations from her with long, intimate shots.
Eilish has always been her worst enemy, and her willingness to reflect on such darkness is what makes the documentary so powerful. The singer might argue that she’s defined by brokenness: “When something breaks a bunch of times, it’s broken,” she declares after spraining her ankle at a show. “Even if you fix it, it’s still been broken.” The film in its entirety, however, suggests otherwise. She isn’t defined by brokenness, but by the beginning of her healing.
“The World’s A Little Blurry” is Eilish at her most vulnerable — it’s her journey from biting down on dark, brittle honesty and spitting out beautifully broken art. Although Eilish might view the world as a little blurry, her world as portrayed in this film provides remarkable clarity into what it means to be the voice of a generation.