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Series review: How to Screw It All Up


- Jaime Olias and Pablo Sanhermelando Blanes’ HBO Max series delivers a solid dive into the fears and aspirations of young adults in 2022

Series review: How to Screw It All Up
Naira Lleó (centre) in How to Screw It All Up

Move over Millennials; it’s time for Generation Z to take centre stage. After the successful launch of HBO Max in Spain back in October 2021 (see the news), the streamer has been investing locally and has produced an ambitious original Spanish series. Just in time for a summer release, too! And we’re in luck, because Jaime Olias and Pablo Sanhermelando BlanesHow to Screw It All Up [+see also:
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, freshly screened at Série Series, doesn’t just lure in its audience with entertaining music, bright colours and a shiny façade; it actually delivers a solid dive into the fears and aspirations of young adults in 2022.

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Throughout its six 22-minute episodes, we follow a group of secondary-school students on an impromptu, unsupervised trip, although there’s one main protagonist called Alba (Naira Lleó). She’s a bit of an introvert, living with her mobster older brother, avoiding social contact at her school and relying on her headphones to escape from daily life. The first episode starts with Alba entering her school with a bang-on musical accompaniment by Goa, featuring Fish Narc, only to find out that her class’s annual school trip has been cancelled owing to administration issues. Nothing too dramatic, although the viewer may consider it as “strike one” in the list of disappointments that adults impose on our energetic heroes throughout the show.

It doesn’t take long for a tight-knit group of classmates, among which is a potential crush for Alba, played by actress Malva Vela (seen in Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s The Realm [+see also:
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), to take matters into their own hands. After all, this cancelled trip is a crazy opportunity to take off by themselves without having to tell their parents. “Where are you guys going?” asks Alba. “We don’t know,” says one boy, as if it were obvious. Fed up and genuinely scared by her older brother’s latest scam, Alba forcefully jumps on her classmates’ bandwagon. And sure, her initial plan is to con them all and flee with their van. But she might actually find solace and trust in the relationships she’s about to build.

With its improvised and fate-driven journey, How to Screw It All Up easily evokes series like The End of the F***ing World or I Am Not Okay With This – shows about Generation Z characters (those born between 1997 and 2010, following Generation Y’s Millennials, and preceding the growing Generation Alpha) and their lack of prospects in a society driven by (what they consider to be) hypocritical boomers. Whether it’s Alba’s brother or the school’s blasé teachers, adulthood is irresponsible and misleading in their eyes, if not plain dangerous. With a visual echo in the show’s cinematography from Larry Clarke’s teen movies from the mid-1990s, How to Screw It All Up suggests that a radical cut-off is the only way for them to make sense of their parents’ nonsense. An irreverent “no, thank you” thrust in the face of the adults’ offer of intergenerational confrontation, and a deep but beneficial cut, poetically underlined by the frequent inclusion of both free and captive animals in many scenes (a bird resting on an electric cable, a barking dog on a leash, a ladybird taking its time to fly away…).

All in all, How to Screw It All Up is a pretty fun and easy-to-binge-on series, serving as a bright, indie companion to the growing list of British and US pop shows about our so-called lost youth. Older folks might still find Generation Z hard to trust after watching it, but after all, screwing things up is always an opportunity to start anew…

How to Screw It All Up was produced by Spain’s Boomerang TV, and was released on HBO Max on 2 July.

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