Beanie Feldstein (left) and Kaitlyn Dever (right) star as Molly and Amy respectively.TWIYTTER/EVRLMN

Booksmart, a coming-of-age comedy about best-friends Molly and Amy finding their wild sides on the eve of their high school graduation, made me cry. Molly realises that she wasted her teenage years in the single-minded pursuit of getting into Yale. When she learns that her classmates, who have worked hard and partied, also got into good schools, she makes the executive decision, along with a nervous Amy, to go to just one high-school party before she graduates. Booksmart is not really a tear-jerker, and though it has many moments of tenderness, they were not the reason it made me so emotional. I cried because it took a pandemic for me to realise that I had made the same mistake as Molly, but by then, it felt too late.

The pair spend their final night before graduation partying to make up for lost time.TWITTER/EPITAPH4MYHEART

I first saw Booksmart in the spring of 2020. The film’s climax takes place during Molly and Amy’s graduation ceremony, where they reconcile with their school friends and look forward to the future. At tis point in my life, I was stuck at home during what was meant to be my last few days at school. We had had no ceremony, no goodbyes, no way to mark the last seven years of our lives, and the summer looked bleak – I was angry and bitter. Seeing Molly and Amy experience these key rites of passage, knowing I was never going to get them, compounded my resentment. I want to say that there was something cathartic about their one night of teenage freedom, but all I could think about was the fact that I had never had any.

“The most valuable currency in my life is fun. Molly realised this in one fateful moment in the school bathroom, I realised it in my twenty-second day of isolation.”

Schoolwork had been my entire life. Like Molly, I was obsessed with getting into my dream university: Cambridge. To begin with, this was just an ambition, but as I got older it spiralled into something deeply unhealthy. I counted each minute I spent studying – an extra ten minutes for dinner meant an extra ten minutes working before bed. If I couldn’t spend at least eight hours on a Sunday working, I would have panic attacks.

I was terrified that any amount of time not spent with my books would be the reason that I wouldn’t get in, and that thought became more painful the more time I poured into this aspiration. I was convinced that every party missed, every family gathering not attended, every breakfast I skipped through anxiety-induced nausea, would be worth it if I got into Cambridge. I was convinced that at Cambridge I would be happy. In the summer before my first term, I was diagnosed with OCD.

Molly's shock towards the success of her classmates is symbolised by the bursting of a balloon.TWITTER/ALEXTRZ83

The moment of Molly’s life-changing realisation is dramatized in Booksmart by a water balloon bursting on her head. This is how I felt when I heard on the radio that my exams had been cancelled. The closure of my school, the cancellation of those all-important exams, and the uncertainty around what Michaelmas would look like lead me to a point where I felt my life had lost all the things that gave it meaning. I had a lot of time to stew in my anger, and I couldn’t help but see the film through the lens of my own sadness.

Regret, resentment, bitterness – Booksmart was probably not designed to inspire these emotions. I did not find the film easier to watch recently, either. I had pinned all my hopes on Cambridge, sacrificed so much for the chance of the happiness I thought I would find here, meaning that having my first year essentially ruined by a pandemic has been hard to bear. I spent a month of Michaelmas in isolation, and my second term at home. There is something very painful about doing university from the bedroom you worked in to get to university.

Imagine how Amy and Molly's lives would have been changed by the pandemic.TWITTER/THEANNESS

During that time, I couldn’t bring myself to watch Booksmart, because it was too difficult to think that Molly and Amy, the Class of 2019, could now be going through what I was. Molly goes off to Yale, Amy to a life-changing gap year in Botswana. Both experiences were probably drastically altered by the pandemic which would hit a year after their graduation. I wonder if Molly, perhaps back home in her bedroom, regrets not enjoying her teenage years. I wonder if her wild night gives her comfort.

There is not much I can say to make up for the loss of the last year and a half, other than it is okay to mourn: a pandemic has taken one of the most important times in my life, in your lives. What I will say is that the pandemic has changed my priorities, and so disrupted our ways of living that it has done what four years of therapy ultimately failed to do: broken the aggressive cycle of my OCD. Now, the most valuable currency in my life is fun. Molly realised this in one fateful moment in the school bathroom, I realised it in my twenty-second day of isolation. She is much smarter than I am.


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Now, all I can do is promise myself fun, today and everyday after, and try to salvage what I can from the last eighteen months. There was a time when I drank too much and threw up directly after my first kiss with a girl, just like Amy. So, I guess there is hope, even for me.