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Straightforward and disarmingly, charmingly sincere, Try Harder! follows college-bound students through their final year of high school. Read critic reviews

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Movie Info

At Lowell High school, the top-ranked public high school in San Francisco, the seniors are stressed out. As they prepare for the emotionally draining college application process, students are keenly aware of the intense competition for the few open spots in their dream colleges. They scrutinize how every element of their application, from their classes to their extracurricular activities to their racial identities, might be read by admission officers. At Lowell--where cool kids are nerds, nearly everyone has an amazing talent, and the majority of the student body is Asian American--the things that usually make a person stand out can feel not good enough, even commonplace. With humor and heart, director Debbie Lum takes us to the reality of the American college application process and the intersection of class, race, and educational opportunity as experienced by high school seniors living through it. Try Harder! is a portrait of young adults in the most diverse American generation ever as they navigate a quintessential rite of passage and make it their own.

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Critic Reviews for Try Harder!

All Critics (24) | Top Critics (7) | Fresh (24)

  • An interesting film about how kids pursue things without knowing why, at its best when occasionally digging deeper into issues of race, stereotypes, and privilege.

    February 20, 2021 | Full Review…
  • It's a very funny movie about a bunch of students trying to find their way through a system that is designed to keep them out rather than let them in.

    February 10, 2021 | Full Review…
  • Director Debbie Lum carefully deconstructs the life of over-achievers going through the brutal and rigorous process of college applications, one that can often seem random and unfair.

    February 8, 2021 | Full Review…
  • The agonizing process trying to get into the best college imaginable is depicted vividly in Bay Area filmmaker Debbie Lim's irresistible documentary...

    February 2, 2021 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • [A] simultaneously charming and chastening documentary...

    January 30, 2021 | Full Review…
  • Cinematically, "Try Harder!" is as unfussy as any doc, but it's also impossible to resist.

    January 30, 2021 | Rating: B | Full Review…

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