Young teen Holly is tasked with the assignment of giving a presentation in front of class. But she finds the idea beyond daunting, and feelings of crippling doubt and self-consciousness begin to bubble up in her.
She tries to get help, whether it's in the form of her family or a clueless guidance counselor. But all her attempts only make her feel freakish and alone -- as if she's the only one in the world who has these feelings. Holly then must face her fear despite her lack of support, and get through this hurdle on her own.
Writer-director Danielle Kampf takes the dilemmas and struggles of its young protagonist seriously, crafting a perceptive, keenly observed drama about a rising issue among teenagers, who are struggling nowadays with higher rates of depression and anxiety than in the past. Through its solid and sensitive storytelling, it takes us on the inside of what it feels like to feel anxiety and shame so intense that it can get in the way of everyday life.
The film's biggest strength in this is its performances, particularly by its young lead Emily Rey, who gives a grounded, relatable performance while navigating turbulent emotions and reactions to the situations and people around her. Finely observed camerawork and well-paced editing give the story clarity and shape, allowing viewers to enter into Holly's struggles and dilemmas with compassion.
Holly's story has a fundamental honesty about the emotional intensity and vulnerabilities of teenage life, treating its stakes and conflicts with respect. In a genre where these are often played for comedy or melodrama, the film offers genuine empathy and openness. In a world where complicated emotion is often flattened or seen as inconvenient and unreasonable, "Presentation" honors emotional complexity, leading the way to acceptance and empowerment.