Skip to main content
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track on the Olympic Games
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week for 24 weeks
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track onthe Olympics Games
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Billie Eilish and her older brother/producer/songwriting partner Finneas O’Connell on stage in Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry, premiering globally on Feb. 26, 2021 on Apple TV+.

APPLE TV+

Plan your screen time with the weekly What to Watch newsletter. Sign up today.

  • Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry
  • Written and directed by R. J. Cutler
  • Starring Billie Eilish, Maggie Baird, Finneas O’Connell, Patrick O’Connell
  • Classification NA; 140 minutes

There’s no crying in baseball, but there is plenty of it to be had in pop music documentaries. Recent such films on Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande and Shawn Mendes all have at least one scene in which the star breaks down, whether from physical pain or from the distress of having to please everybody.

It’s a filmmaker’s crutch. Because there’s no built-in narrative when it comes to young recording artists whose careers have been all ups and no downs, the weeping interlude provides a quick measure of drama. It’s not only lazy filmmaking, it’s emotionally manipulative.

Story continues below advertisement

Eilish with her father, Patrick O’Connell. The heart of the needlessly lengthy 140-minute film is Eilish’s support system – namely, her family.

APPLE TV+

In the Apple Original Films production Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry, director R. J. Cutler can’t resist the cheap stunt, dwelling on a moment when the teenaged singer loses it when she sprains her ankle during the first song of a concert. “I just want to give you a good show, and, like, I can’t,” she tells the audience, before running off stage.

Coaxed by her handlers, the Therefore I Am singer then jumps on the back of a roadie – is that a teenage pop star thing? Bieber did the same thing on the Great Wall of China – and is carried back to the very stage she sprinted from moments earlier.

Though the event isn’t staged, it feels inevitable – straight out of the pop-doc playbook. It’s a shame, because the rest of the film provides a fascinating and uncontrived look at a dead-eyed downer-pop artist who is the antithesis of the typical commercial music phenom. Tricks that Lady Gaga would pull at the drop of a meat dress simply aren’t part of Eilish’s keeping-it-real game.

The World’s a Little Blurry covers a world tour and the making of Eilish’s debut album from 2019, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?. The heart of the needlessly lengthy 140-minute film is Eilish’s support system, which is to say her family – a screenwriter mother, a construction worker father and her older brother/producer/songwriting partner Finneas O’Connell. They’re all grounded, thoughtful and dedicated to the protection of a self-loathing teen who is coming of age in front of the world.

When the record label presses for a hit single, the Billie-whisperer brother has a plan to come up with an accessible song that won’t conflict with his sister’s more organic (and tortured) approach to songwriting. Elsewhere, when mother defends daughter’s integrity, Eilish flashes the sweetest “that’s my mom” smile.

Eilish with her screenwriter mother, Maggie Baird.

APPLE TV+

One sub-plot involves Eilish’s quest for a driver’s licence. Pointing out that her family members drive minivans and Mazdas, she jokingly says she’s “drowning in losers.” She wants a matte black muscle car, and she gets one, complete with a big green bow on the hood. It doesn’t have the “souped-up” engine, her mother whispers to the camera. “But she doesn’t know that.”

She does now.

Story continues below advertisement

The other sub-plot stars Bieber, Eilish’s hero. When she learns the Canadian superstar want to collaborate, she’s awestruck but conflicted. She doesn’t think she’s worthy of it, but how could she say no? “He could ask me to kill my dog, and I would,” she admits.

Bieber is presented as a cautionary tale. A boy star who turned jerkish and bratty as a young man, Bieber struggled dealing with his sudden hurricane-force fame. Now in his mid-twenties, he’s come out the other side now as a mature adult. The way he mentors Eilish in the film is heartwarming and, dare I say, tear-jerking.

Eilish believes she’s damaged and says she’s 'bad at taking care' of her mental health.

APPLE TV+

Here’s the thing about Elish and crying, though: She doesn’t seem capable of it. Her music is strikingly unemotive, even when singing about the saddest things. She’s a small-voiced introvert who doesn’t like to belt her songs, for fear of the internet making fun of her. She believes she’s damaged – “no matter what happens, you’ll always be broken,” reads a diary entry – and admits that she’s “bad at taking care of my mental health.” Eilish talks about locking herself in the bathroom when she was younger, making herself bleed with a razor because “I thought I deserved it.”

Now she bleeds through her songs. “I’m never feeling happy, so why would I write about things I don’t know about,” she says. “I feel the dark things.”

A radio interviewer says that in her songs it sounds as if Eilish is on the brink of crying. We see it in the film too: On the brink, but not quite all the way. In more than one scene, Eilish seems to be wiping away tears that aren’t there. It’s the saddest thing.

Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry will be released in theatres and premiere on Apple TV+ on Feb. 26.

Story continues below advertisement

In the interest of consistency across all critics’ reviews, The Globe has eliminated its star-rating system in film and theatre to align with coverage of music, books, visual arts and dance. Instead, works of excellence will be noted with a critic’s pick designation across all coverage. (Television reviews, typically based on an incomplete season, are exempt.)

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies