Underrated: Nerve (2016) Review

4/5* Shiv’s Show | Siobhan Divers



Dir: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman

96 mins

Starring: Emma Roberts, Dave Franco, Juliette Lewis, Emily Meade, Miles Heizer, Kimiko Glenn, Samira Wiley, Colson Baker.


Colourful, aesthetically pleasing, clever and entertaining with charming, charismatic leads.

Nerve follows the life of high school student Vee Delmonico (Emma Roberts) – a shy senior who is tired of living life in her friend Sydney’s shadow (Emily Meade). Sydney, like a number of other young people in the film, is addicted to an online game of dares called Nerve where participants have the option of being watchers or players. Watchers participate in the game through anonymously submitting dares for the players to complete within a time-frame for a monetary prize. Players compete to be among Nerve’s top players and the more dangerous or embarrassing the dare, the higher the cash prize. Vee, looking to try something new and step outside her comfort zone, joins the online game where she meets Ian (Dave Franco) another player.

Vee and Ian team up and compete with other players hoping to make it to the final but what seems exciting at first soon becomes extremely dangerous, with real-life friendships on shaky grounds and their real lives at risk.

An interesting premise which is well executed, Nerve shows how young people can be easily manipulated as well as how important the internet and popularity really is to some people –  dares pose a threat to lives yet these young people still aim to please their watchers.

Although it is fictional, it is quite realistic in this sense – one of the things which makes the film intriguing is that the premise is not entirely unrealistic. People check their phones constantly – it is like an addiction: social media users obsess over how many likes and follows they get and it’s hard to shake the overwhelming need to be liked.

Combine this with the real-life examples of social media crazes gone wrong and its worrying.

Remember the Cinnamon Challenge? People attempted to swallow a spoonful of ground cinnamon in under sixty seconds. What about the Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge? This craze saw people holding small cups to their face, covering their lips resulting in a puffier appearance like the lips of Kylie Jenner. Or the Salt and Ice Challenge where people endured the burning sensation of having both materials on their skin simultaneously. The Tide Pod Challenge, anyone? People ATE tide pods.

The difference between the dares in Nerve and the ones which people in the last few years have done for social media likes? The people in Nerve were paid for it!!!!

So, it is clever as the premise is relatable and entertaining at the same time.

And although it shows the danger of the internet through the power of the anonymous and people’s need to be popular, the film isn’t anti-social media. It also shows the benefits of the internet as a way to meet new people and connect with friends.

It’s fast-paced and there is a lot going on, but it isn’t confusing or hard to follow. This works well with the storyline as there are a good number of thrilling, edge-of-your-seat scenes.

Aesthetically, the film is also pleasing. The neon vibes throughout give the film a video-game feel which is not out of sync with the plot – the film is almost like one big, city-wide video game which is played in real-life!

The casting choices are excellent, the portrayal of each character’s personality is pleasing and there is notable character development for each character – not just the leads (usually not the case in films due to budget and timing issues).

Its unusual in the sense that there isn’t one ‘villain’ as such. The ‘mean girl’ storyline could have been used in the film as there is a cliché popular girl and a shy girl but the character developments of both Sydney and Vee – shows that both girls have issues which they need to work through. Similarly, the ‘nice guy’, Tommy (Miles Heizer) could have been portrayed as the victim – he has unrequited feelings for Vee but instead of being spiteful, he still supports and helps her.

The dialogue is questionable in some scenes – it comes across quite cliché, cringeworthy and also sometimes slightly forced but this is probably to be expected from teen movies.

Overall however, the idea works well – it’s a thriller, young adult drama and dystopian reality all rolled into one – the kind of thing you’d expect from popular television series Black Mirror however it works well as a film as it gives the agency to explore fully the issues within, notice the character development and enjoy the storyline.

It ultimately makes you question what you would do for money and popularity and I have to admit – I would do a lot…


If you liked this, please read, like and comment on my other reviews here.

I also have a Letterboxd account where I post some short reviews of the most recent films I’ve seen.

And don’t forget to follow my Twitter and Instagram

Siobhan x

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