There's a moment pretty early on in the new Billie Eilish documentary The World's a Little Blurry when a discomfiting sense of familiarity sets in. The two-plus hour film, which chronicles the creation of Eilish's When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go album and ensuing tour, feels like a flashback—a time capsule of pre-pandemic collective memories: the sensorial overload of live shows in crowded venues packed with screaming teenagers; the outpouring of emotion triggered by accidentally running into someone you've loved; the visceral friction of reluctant interactions with strangers; the last Coachella.
"It's like the world screeched to a halt within weeks of our wrapping," Director RJ Cutler tells Tatler. "In fact, I think my last shoot with Billie was on March 9th, which was a Monday night. And March 13th, which was a Friday night, was the night the country shut down."
Through an intimate narrative in which everyone who is or has ever been a teenager will likely recognise a piece of themselves, Cutler and his film crew follow Eilish over the course of a whirlwind career-defining year, from her childhood home in Highland Park where she still lives with her parents Maggie and Patrick, around the world and back. With unfettered access and the trust of the family, Cutler was also able to include never-before-seen footage from Eilish's childhood—an early peek at the musical prodigy and how her creativity and talents were nurtured from a young age.
"Having been born in 2001, Billie's entire life has been captured, to some degree, by a video camera," Cutler says. "Some of Maggie's footage is absolutely astounding: a point of view that only a mother could have. And they knew they were going through something special while they were creating the album, so they made sure to find ways to record key moments."
Billie Eilish first made waves in the pop culture landscape when, as a 14-year-old, she and her brother Finneas wrote, produced, and uploaded the song "Ocean Eyes" on SoundCloud. A music video, a record deal, and a hit EP followed quickly thereafter, and Eilish headed out on tour in 2017.
"From the moment I met Billie [in 2018], I believed we were onto something special," Cutler says. "My producing partner Trevor Smith and I were invited to meet with Billie and her family and we went to their home and we sat around the picnic table in their backyard. There was a trapeze. And a lot going on. The house was filled with things that people had sent her. She was 16 at the time and I was engaged from the moment we met. In part because I instantly felt that there was a certain amount of miracle going on that was beyond comprehension.
"Who is this young artist who seems so fully formed but is so clearly still becoming?" Cutler continues. "Where does it come from? Is she from another planet? And then there's this very human person. There's this person who's a daughter and a sister and a kid and very much a human being. When I talk about the miracle, it's not just the art, it's also the empathy. It's also the pain she's experiencing--and the joy--on behalf of her audience. It's the connection to millions. It's something mythic."