During the nearly two and a half hours of Billie Eilish’s new documentary, Apple TV+’s Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry, we learn a lot about the 19-year-old star.
There are some things longtime Eilish fans will likely already know: her favourite car, how close she is with her family, how much honesty she pours into her music, and how devoted she is to her fans. Other things, like her genuine hate for the songwriting process (she leaves that to her brother, Finneas), the bittersweet relationship that occupied much of her thoughts while on tour, and intimate details about her history of depression and self-harm.
The first half of the film focuses on Eilish's life before she released her Grammy-winning debut album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, and the second (post-intermission — yes, there’s an intermission) is basically her continued upward trajectory after. There’s not much of a plot, per-se, nor do the filmmakers seem like they’re trying to beat the audience over the head with an agenda. In fact, The World’s A Little Blurry feels more slice-of-life film than Celebrity Documentary. But there are a few particular moments — intimate habits caught as if by accident, bits of off-handed conversation — that reveal Eilish’s ethos in surprisingly clear ways. One of these is an exchange between Eilish’s mother, Maggie Baird, during the latter half of the film.
Eilish used to be a serious dancer, but suffered a hip injury when she was 13 that prevented her from continuing. “Everything I’ve ever loved, I’ve had to give up,” Eilish says. The injury however continues to flare up, and is especially exacerbated by the singer’s constant on-the-go lifestyle and penchant for jumping up-and-down at her shows. During a show in Milan in 2019, she twists her ankle during the first song and has to wear a boot for the rest of the performance. Backstage, her mum chastises her for not keeping up her physical therapy and encourages her to try to mend her body.
“I gave you the exercises to do it but you actually do have to do it. Every day,” Baird says. “And the days when you don’t have a show, you have to almost do more because you have to work out. We’re trying to make it so you don’t get injured anymore, we’re trying to heal your body so you don’t go on interviews and say, ‘my body is broken.’ We’re going to heal your body.”
Eilish’s face, at this point, looks incredibly sombre and frustrated. “My body is always going to be broken, even if I heal it,” she says adamantly. “It will have been broken a million times.”
“But it can be healed!” her mum interjects.
“If something breaks a bunch of times it’s broken,” Eilish replies. “Even if you fix it, it’s still been broken.”
It’s a disheartening thing to hear from a teenager — to so clearly see that she’s not just talking about her legs. This outlook is further underscored in a scene in which we see the notes and thoughts scribbled on her bedroom wall. One line reads:
“No matter what happens, I will
always love be broken”
While it does suggest a rather pessimistic perspective — that Eilish doesn’t feel like she’s whole, and has a hard time moving beyond the sad or difficult things that try to hold her back, you could also say that, in some ways, it’s also very realistic. It’s true that in many cases, things change once they are broken: replaced bones and healed muscles are technically not the same as before they were hurt, even after they do get “fixed.” Traumatic events still colour a person’s life, for better or worse.
Following this exchange, Eilish eventually goes to physical therapy more regularly and makes an effort to take care of her injury. But it likely isn’t because she suddenly has a change of heart — as you learn in the film, despite being a superstar, Eilish is still very much your classic stubborn-yet-somehow-charming teenager. It’s because the only thing stronger than her own convictions is her love for her fans, and her determination to always give them the best show she possibly can. Theirs is one bond, at least, that will never be broken.
If you or someone you know is considering self-harm, please get help. Call the Samaritans on 116 123.