Illustration of Billie Eilish in the documentary "The World's a Little Blurry"
A film crew takes a look inside the life of a young pop star in "The World's a Little Blurry." (Illustration by Sophia Clendenen, University of the Arts)
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Illustration of Billie Eilish in the documentary "The World's a Little Blurry"

The new AppleTV documentary follows the pop star through her rapid ascent to stardom as she prepares her debut album.

At just 19 years old, music sensation Billie Eilish has already won seven Grammys, three Billboard Music Awards and the hearts of an extremely dedicated fanbase. Rising to stardom with her 2017 hit “Ocean Eyes,” Eilish has not lost steam. Known for her eccentric, unabashedly strange approach to pop music, many wonder about the inner workings behind her unique vision. To show a new side to the star, Eilish and her team began discussing making a documentary that tells her story from her perspective.

Director RJ Cutler dove headfirst into the fast-paced world of Billie Eilish in 2018 when he began filming “The World’s a Little Blurry.” The documentary was filmed over the course of two years and documents the process of the creation of her debut album, “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?”

Making of “The World’s a Little Blurry

Following Eilish and her brother Finneas from 2018 all the way to her sweep at the 2020 Grammy Awards, “The World’s a Little Blurry” commences with Eilish and Finneas in the early stages of “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” and shows the duo working tirelessly in Finneas’ bedroom-turned-studio. The film wastes no time in establishing how grounded and humble Eilish is in contrast to her free-spirited, defiant public image.

We are then introduced to Eilish’s parents, Maggie and Patrick O’Connell, as they help their daughter construct a homemade version of her vision for a future music video. It’s these wholesome, family-oriented moments interspersed throughout the documentary that show a side of Eilish that gets lost in her public persona. From the beginning and on, viewers quickly realize “The World’s a Little Blurry” is a documentary meant to show the transformation, pain and love behind such an enigmatic pop star.

“Ocean Eyes” and Her Rise to Fame

A particularly interesting subject the documentary tackles is Eilish’s rise to fame at only 13 years old. Viewers see home video footage of an ecstatic Eilish and Finneas as they hear “Ocean Eyes” being played on the radio for the first time in their humble Los Angeles home. The documentary is also forthright in its exploration of a young Eilish writing songs with intense subject matter. A trademark of Eilish’s sound since her debut has been her gritty, somber lyrics that aren’t typically associated with teenage pop stars.

In a scene with her mother and staff member Chelsea, they discuss “xanny” and the future implications a song discussing drug abuse could have on the star if she were to veer into drug use. Though Eilish describes the song as an homage to her friends lost to opioid abuse, Chelsea still expresses the fear that it could make her appear “hypocritical” in the future. Eilish’s mother is quick to come to her daughter’s defense and poignantly asks, “Are you not going to let her be authentic to who she is now in case she does grow up to use drugs?” It’s in this moment that viewers get an almost palpable sense of the love and support that’s backing Eilish. While she may have been very young at the start of her rise to stardom, we see that the amount of love around her has been instrumental in allowing her to perform as well as she does.

Mental Health

Differing from the normal composition of documentaries about young stars, Eilish sought to show every bit of her journey to global stardom. From injuries, anxieties, to heartbreaks, “The World’s a Little Blurry” shows the hidden toll of fame. Although Eilish has always been forthcoming about her mental health struggles, this documentary seeks to show these moments in their gut-wrenching totality.

Beyond telling the extraordinary story of her surprise rise to fame, the documentary also shows that Eilish is still a teenage girl experiencing the same growing pains as every girl her age. The fly-on-the-wall style of filming captures the feeling of vulnerability as Eilish begins treading the waters of young adulthood. Particularly, we see Eilish go through an incredibly difficult breakup with her boyfriend Q.

The documentary offers only a glimpse into how she truly feels, but it is clear that the relationship and its demise put a heavy weight on her mental health. Following the breakup, Eilish discussed the toll the failing relationship had on her: “I don’t think you should be in a relationship super-excited about things the other person couldn’t care less about. There was a lack of effort. Like dude, you don’t even have enough love to love yourself so you can’t love me and you don’t,” she continued. “I can’t fix him. I tried.”

The Future of Billie Eilish

Though the documentary was incredibly transparent about the woes of fame, the final quarter of the film provides an optimistic outlook on Eilish’s future. We see her take the reigns of the direction of a music video as she grows more confident in her artistic capabilities. It’s a stark contrast from the beginning of the film when we see a 17-year-old Eilish anxiously speaking with a director about perfecting her vision for “You Should See Me in a Crown.’’

While “The World’s a Little Blurry” doesn’t shy away from displaying the ups and downs of Eilish’s journey, it proudly highlights her growth as an artist and person. In the final few moments of the documentary, Eilish appears stronger and ready to truly take control of her life and creative vision. No longer is she a young girl unsure of her worth as an artist, but an acclaimed singer-songwriter with a vision she is confident in.

Since airing on AppleTV+ in late February, the documentary has garnered massive praise. “The World’s a Little Blurry” holds a 98% fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes, a score of 72 on Metacritic and sprung a reported 33% influx of new AppleTV users.

“The World’s a Little Blurry” is a fascinating, gripping and intimate look into the life of Billie Eilish. Director RJ Cutler and his team did an incredible job at making a viewing experience perfect for both loyal fans, casual listeners or anyone with a curiosity about the world of Billie Eilish. It strips away all the illusions of grandeur and fame, and candidly displays the downsides of such a sharp ascension to stardom. Above all else, it is a sweet homage to the love surrounding Eilish and her transformation into the artist she is today.

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