Whilst on the surface Nerve appears to be a film that only communicates with teens who love a high school flick – or simply Dave Franco – director Jessica Sharzer has loyally turned Jeanne Ryan’s young adult novel into a movie that speaks to all ages.
The all-too-relevant plot centres around an online craze based on “truth or dare”, which Vee (Emma Roberts) becomes swept up in after succumbing to modern day peer-pressure. Choosing to be a “player”, she is immersed in the dangerous game where she receives dares by a community of anonymous “watchers”. The danger only intensifies when she encounters another player and potential love interest, Ian (Franco).
Initially their relationship seems hollow and lacking substance – not long after the two meet Vee has enough faith in him that she gets on his motorbike as he drives it blindfolded. It is such leaps of faith, however, that attracts the watchers’ attention and, consequently, grips the audience of the film.
This leap is too familiar to the trust our society puts on relationships over the internet, thus initiating an underlying theme in the film regarding the dangerous growth of social media. When Nerve takes a potent turn, where Vee and Ian have to fight for survival, this theme intensifies impressively: the way the watchers are presented becomes all the more chilling as the film develops. The victimisation of the protagonists by these masked strangers, all who want to capture them on film, mirrors the frightening and obsessive way people need to document everything and erase any privacy online.
Nerve is a movie that initially seems naive and unsophisticated; however, as it progresses, this becomes replaced with a darkness that any audience can relate to – one that is slowly engulfing society. It delves into the dangers of online anonymity, privacy, and vulnerability in a growing technological era.
Simultaneously, it reinforces the importance of taking a chance. Like Vee, you may learn things about yourself that you’d only discover out of your comfort zone. The combined effect of these two elements, make the film both dark and inspiring, ultimately reminding us of the importance of staying true to yourself both on and offline.