Ever wanted to go back to high school, knowing what you know now as an adult, and change how things went there? We’ve all thought of it, but of course changing things in the past always has implications for the present. That’s the idea behind a new Netflix teen series from Brazil.
BACK TO 15: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening Shot: A small town in the mountains of Brazil, 2006. A teenager is at the computer in her room, headphones on her ears.
The Gist: It’s the first day of high school for Anita (Maisa Silva), and she’s more concerned with picking a perfect profile picture for her Photoblog than being on time for the first day of school. “When will I be an adult and be able to live my life?” she says.
Cut to 2021 in São Paulo. Anita (Camila Queiroz), now 30 and living with her cat in the big city, is hurriedly packing to get to the wedding of her sister Luiza (Mariana Rios) back in their hometown. Anita’s life is a bit of a mess; she’s wearing her old prom dress for the wedding, for instance. In a sea of people who want her to be the next one married, she finds her best friend Henrique (Breno Ferreira), whom she just realizes is actually hot.
She then finds her cousin Carol (Yana Sardenberg), whose life is being restricted by her husband Eduardo, and openly hits on Anita when she catches him kissing someone else.
Exasperated, she goes back to her room, and logs onto the Photoblog on her old computer. She’s then suddenly transported back to 2006, but now she’s her 30-year-old self in her 15-year-old body. Shocked, she excitedly wants to see her dad, who died before she turned 30, but barely misses him. She and Luiza (Amanda Azevedo) go to the first day of school and meet up with Carol (Klara Castanho) and a shy Henrique (Caio Cabral).
The first day is freshman hazing day, which is a horrible memory for Anita, so she and Henrique hide in the library, when they run into César (Pedro Vinicius), who gets hazed every day because he’s gay. He even gets hazed by his brother Fabricio (João Guilherme). Anita hits it off with him immediately. And when they do get found and get hazed, Anita uses all of her experience with all of the boys hazing them to tell them what kind of idiots they’ll be when they grow up.
Of course, Anita thinks this is all a dream. She and Cé spend the afternoon getting her ears pierced and really bond. They take a “selfie” with her digital camera, and as she puts it up on her Photoblog, Anita goes back to her 30-year-old body. Then she realizes that she’s not actually dreaming; she can travel back and forth.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Back To 15 is more or less 13 Going On 30, but in reverse.
Our Take: Back To 15 (original title: De Volta aos 15) can best be described as “cute.” The idea of a woman traveling back to when she was 15 to fix some things in her and friends’ lives is a cute idea. The main performance, by Maisa Silva, is cute and, dare we say, spunky. And the supporting cast, both as the adult and teen versions of people in Anita’s life, make for a good ensemble. We just wonder how much we can really get out of this premise.
Now that Anita knows that she’s not only traveling back in time, but can change the course of her life when she travels back, there’s certainly potential to have Anita reshape her life and the lives of her friends and then see how things turned out fifteen years later. But we wonder when that becomes repetitive, or the changes made don’t make any sense. We can put up with 2021 references that Anita makes in 2006 if that in-joke isn’t pounded over our heads.
But for the time being, we’re interested in seeing how 30-year-old Anita deals with her 15-year-old world with the knowledge her older self has.
Sex and Skin: None.
Parting Shot: When 30-year-old Anita realizes that Cé is now at the wedding, and the piercings she got in her “dream” are still there, she realizes she actually traveling back in time.
Sleeper Star: Pedro Vinicius plays Cé as a good companion of Anita, one she likely wishes she had when she was actually in high school. Seeing their friendship develop should be interesting.
Most Pilot-y Line: There are times when the aesthetic of the flashback scenes feels more like 1996 or maybe 2000 than 1999. The dial-up internet, the big tube monitor, some of the hairstyles. It makes us wonder if the producers decided to make a stylized version of 2006 or if that’s how things really were in that part of Brazil 15 years ago. It’s a bit distracting.
Our Call: STREAM IT. Back To 15 is a light, entertaining show about a woman trying to change her life by using her knowledge as an adult to change how things went for her as a teenager.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.