The world is a little blurry when looking at it through tear-filled eyes. Singer-songwriter Billie Eilish has grown accustomed to this clouded vision over the last five years following the release of her song “Ocean Eyes,” which kick-started her career. She was 13 years old when she first heard herself on the radio, and her voice has since played on airwaves across the world. On Feb. 26, her documentary “Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry” premiered on Apple TV. The film documents the trialing times she faced while recording her 2019 debut album “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” with her brother — singer-songwriter FINNEAS — and highlights how the music industry affects young artists.
Fans took to social media and began sharing their thoughts, comforting each other after witnessing heartbreaking and heartwarming moments in the film. Out of the cast of characters, fans expressed their antipathy to the film’s antagonist — Eilish’s ex-boyfriend “Q.” He began dating the then-16-year-old Eilish while she was writing her album. In response to their five-year age difference, fanpages accused Q of grooming Eilish and were outraged by his mistreatment of their idol. Throughout the film, viewers watch as Eilish ignores flagrant red flags which ultimately led to their breakup. In a live concert performance of her ballad “i love you,” Eilish’s emotions consume her as she weeps through the final lyrics. Much to her dismay, her team instructs her to greet a room full of unfamiliar faces after the concert.
The next morning, Eilish woke up to a comment on her Instagram post stating she looked “bothered” at her meet and greet the night before. “I literally can’t have a bad moment,” an exasperated Eilish said.
The pressure of having a quick rise to fame is something Eilish’s idol Justin Bieber understands better than anyone else. Her love for the famous pop singer is apparent throughout the film — her mother reminisces on a Christmas Day celebrated at Bieber’s concert and a video of a 12-year-old Eilish shows her divulging her love for him. The night after her Coachella performance in 2019, her dreams came true. In the crowd, Eilish met the gaze of Bieber. She backed away hesitantly. After several moments of exchanged glances, they spread their arms and engulfed each other in a warm embrace. They stood together — Bieber’s hand rubbing her head — as she cried into his arms.
In a direct message after their encounter, Bieber said, “Thank you for tonight. It meant just as much to me as it meant to you.” He saw himself in her. Even surrounded by her tight-knit family, the spotlight can be lonely. Only those who know how blinding it is can understand how it affects other artists. Eilish rose to fame around the same age as Bieber did, so he knows how the industry only values young artists, like her, monetarily. In his message, Bieber included a few words of wisdom in his message, “You are so special, not for what you can do, but for who you are. Remember that.”
Eilish’s physical health has also at times been compromised because of her career. An integral aspect of Eilish’s performances is the way she passionately jumps on stage. While touring in the film, prioritizing this signature jumping for fans takes a significant toll on her body, requiring healing treatments and rehabilitation for her legs. In addition to accepting physical turmoil for the sake of art, she also struggles with Tourette’s Syndrome. Tourette’s is a disorder that creates abrupt physical impulses such as repetitive blinking and twitching, and these tics intensify when Eilish is tired and overwhelmed.
R.J. Cutler, the director of the film, shows this cyclical relationship between Eilish’s physical and mental health while documenting her accomplishments. She discounts her talents despite the opinions of her inner circle and fans. On stage, she is deeply disturbed by not performing to the best of her ability — and her leg injuries keep her from doing so. Eilish also has to ensure she does not strain her vocal cords by trying to prove herself when recording music. Toward the end of the film, Cutler gives fans more insight into Eilish’s dark history with mental health. She confides in her fans about self-harm, showing the darkest thoughts of her younger self written in her journal.
Self-inflicted and external pressures weigh artists down and awaken their inner demons. Amidst the turmoil, Eilish has conquered the unimaginable. On Jan. 26, 2020, she spoke with journalists while holding her five awards on the Grammys press stage. “We made this album in a bedroom at our house that we grew up in, and it was mastered in somebody’s living room, so it’s really like anything is possible,” Eilish said. The truth is, it requires immense strength to make it in a competitive industry while being watched by the world and struggling with physical and mental health. If there is anything the beginning of her career proves, it is that nothing can weaken the power of Billie Eilish.