REVIEW: If You Want To See How To Love Somebody With Anxiety, Watch ‘Tear Along The Dotted Line’

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Tear Along The Dotted Line - But Why Tho

Tear Along The Dotted Line is an Italian-language animated comedy-Netflix original created, directed, and written by cartoonist Zerocalcare. It is three things all at once: a story about Zero as he and his two friends go on a trip and the anxiety he endures along the way, a series of rambling but always funny vignettes about Zero’s life and how he came to be how he is, and a sometimes existential sometimes inspirational examination of what it means to have anxiety and what it means to love somebody who does.

The show has a jarring style at first. It’s very fast-paced, the jokes are either super subtle or absolutely obvious with nothing in between, and they have a tendency to go on and on for perhaps even half of an episode. It’s never crude but doesn’t shy away from anything either. And strangely, the references are largely American, even though it takes place in Italy and the English dub is British. But once the whiplash of the rapid pace settles in, Tear Along The Dotted Line is an amazing, brief series that offers so much more than its humorous approach would have you anticipate.

At its most basic level, the show is a comedy. It’s overflowing with witty jokes and excellent timing. And honestly, I highly recommend watching the English dubbed version. It is very well voice acted and scripted, with perfect comedic timing and a wholly natural flow to the dialogue to the point that you could tell me the show was originally in English, and I wouldn’t question it for a second. Frustratingly, you have to use the non-closed caption English version to get translations of the on-screen Italian text, which is sometimes key to understanding jokes or even the plot. But the rest of that text is a complete mismatch with the dub and is frankly a far worse translation. The closed caption “British English” version is a one-to-one dialogue transcription but lacks the translations.

Beyond cunning wit and truly hilarious moments, though, Tear Along The Dotted Line is a show about anxiety. Zero is severely afflicted by it, and most of the show’s tales involve his spiraling into an anxious state over some situation or another, often hilariously debating against himself, receiving poor advice from the anthropomorphic armadillo that he imagines as his conscious or depicting graphically the numerous catastrophizing and paranoid scenarios his anxiety imagines might happen. If you have ever wanted a visual depictor of what anxiety is like, either as an example to show somebody else, to help you understand someone you know or simply to laugh at your own experience with anxiety, Tear Along The Dotted Line is the perfect depiction.

It’s also a perfect depiction of how to love somebody with anxiety. Zero has three friends, Secco, Sarah, and Alice. Secco is the kind of friend who just gives it to Zero straightforward and real, cutting right through his catastrophizing. Sarah is the kind of friend who will walk Zero through his paranoia-driven scenarios to help him realize the worst potential outcome isn’t so bad, and he’ll be fine between now and the outcome too. It can be really easy to become frustrated with people who are constantly seeing the worst in things or who consistently need reassurance that the whole world doesn’t hate them. But they’re both patient and forgiving in their own ways and provide Zero support in opposite but equally important ways.

The dotted line metaphor is excellent. Anxiety is all about anticipating bad or uncomfortable outcomes—what will happen if you go beyond the dotted line—and being paralyzed by the unknown or the expectation of something going poorly. Visually, the show repeatedly finds new and creative ways to bring the dotted line imagery into scenes. The whole show is visually a perfect balance between the comedic effect of Zero’s constant spiraling and the darker and more difficult and upsetting realities of how anxiety holds Zero back. The music is also an excellent indicator of Zero’s mood, using rapid Italian music when things get manic and calm English music when things are more placid.

CW: Suicide and spoilers beyond this point

Tear Along The Dotted Line doesn’t just deal with anxiety, though. In a surprise twist in the final moments of the penultimate episode, the mood of the entire show takes a nosedive as the audience learns that Alice had killed herself and that the trip Zero, Secco, and Sarah were on was to go stay with her parents before attending the funeral. The whole final episode is an amazing and perfectly sensitive exploration of the inexplicability of depression and suicide. It’s upsetting and moving at once, but it’s also an amazing foil for Zero’s experience with anxiety.

He is so good at explaining his anxiety in a way that not only has he clearly come to understand but so that other people can clearly understand it too. Yet when confronted with Alice’s depression and suicide, he is dumbfounded and can’t understand how something like this could happen with little warning and no explanation. For somebody so skilled at analyzing his own mental health, Zero finds himself at a total loss over how to rationalize somebody else’s whom he loved. It’s a really sad ending capped off by a really emotional experience for Zero (albeit a bit disappointing that it takes her death for him to finally learn these lessons). But it’s also a hugely important depiction of how varied mental health conditions can be and how to love people with them.

Tear Along The Dotted Line is a series equally hilarious, well-animated, and poignant. Its approach to depicting anxiety and suicide is as tactful as it is touching and hilarious. Whether you’re somebody who struggles yourself, love somebody who does, or simply want to better understand the mind of somebody with anxiety, this is an absolutely-must watch series.

Tear Along The Dotted Line is streaming now on Netflix.


Tear Along The Dotted Line
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    Rating - 9/10
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TL;DR

Tear Along The Dotted Line is a series equally hilarious, well-animated, and poignant. Its approach to depicting anxiety and suicide is as tactful as it is touching and hilarious. Whether you’re somebody who struggles yourself, love somebody who does, or simply want to better understand the mind of somebody with anxiety, this is an absolutely-must watch series.