HHigh School, an Amazon Freevee adaptation of the twin sisters’ memoir tegan and sara Quin focuses on the couple’s adolescence in the 1990s before they became the indie-pop duo Tegan and Sara. The first episode is as boring as those of us who also went through a ’90s adolescence remember it. The girls are played by twins Railey and Seazynn Gilliland, who are TikTok creators in their first acting roles (but don’t let that get in the way). put you off: they’re not bad and they get better as the series progresses). They moan sulkily as they move through their first day at their new high school in suburban Calgary. There is a festering resentment between them based on Sara “stole” Phoebe, a former shared best friend. There’s the boredom of lessons, an annoying bully of a boy named Tyler, and lonely canteen lunches, all shot in a constant gray twilight. The only bright spots, metaphorically, are the approach of a potential friend to Tegan towards the end, and a silent approach between the sisters in the final scenes, as Sara helps remove the gum that Tyler has stuck in Tegan’s hair.
But stay with it. Things look up, for the sisters and for the viewers. Friendships take root and flourish, although Sara’s do so with the help of drugs. It becomes clear that she and Phoebe are girlfriends, but they don’t reveal it to anyone. Tegan’s growing closeness with her new friend Maya (Amanda Fix, who lifts all the scenes she shares with Railey) implies another navigation of a young, gay relationship. The first episode alternates between the two sisters with frequently overlapping timelines, so we see the same events from two sides. But after that, the focus broadens to include other characters, including Phoebe (Olivia Rouyre, another relative newcomer: she started in Youtube – who holds her own in a story that includes coming to terms with her sexuality within a homophobic family) and the twins’ mother, Simone (Cobie Smulders). While the series is clearly aimed at and more sympathetic to a younger, queer demographic, Simone’s experiences—as a social worker with tremendous responsibilities, as a mother of troubled teens, as a wife, and as a woman—have room to unfold.
High School also avoids rushing into the hows, whys and wherefores of Sara and Tegan’s musical evolution and success. Like everything else in this leisurely evocation of a particular era and a particular moment in life, it’s a slow burn. By the end of the first three episodes, we haven’t seen them do much more than any teenager might: write some lyrics in a boring lesson, sing a song to a girlfriend, ask permission to attend a concert, and go to art classes. piano. (where they don’t even do that well).
You don’t have to be a fan, or even have heard of Tegan and Sara, to enjoy High School (although I imagine it would get you past the exceptionally downbeat start). It’s a candid, eventually quite moving, portrait of sisterhood, the real and larger forms and power of friendship, the messy business of negotiating the complexities of a queer adolescence, finding yourself, and the joys of discovering a voice. and a talent. you can make your own. But I’ll also take a spin-off based on Simone at any time. She has a lot to teach us too, I suspect.