Despite what the puberty handbooks might tell you, growing up can happen at any stage in life—and who you grow up with might not necessarily be the kids next door, or your classmates, or your siblings. In fact, when and how we grow is often decided by the people who come into our lives; how we reflect on that growth, by the people who stay.
Although they were (technically speaking) already grown-ups when they met, the members of indie rock supergroup boygenius—Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus, and Julien Baker—have absolutely done some growing up together. Since they released their acclaimed self-titled EP in 2018, they’ve been through solo tours, breakups, and fundamentally altering losses (and one or two truly wonderful photoshoots). Now, their first full-length album, the record—another collection of mesmerizingly lived-in songs charting love, loss, and making something of the two—is here, alongside a Kristen Stewart-directed visual that skillfully encapsulates the trio’s intimate, cerebral style, and their enduring friendship.
It almost goes without saying that Stewart is best known as an actor, but she’s tried her hand at music videos before. In 2014, she helmed the visual for Sage + the Saint’s single “Take Me Down South,” following it up with another credit on Chvrches 2017 “Down Side of Me” video—she’s also directed short films, and an episode of the Netflix anthology series Homemade. Next up, she’ll make her big-screen directorial debut with an adaptation of author Lidia Yuknavitch’s memoir, “The Chronology of Water,” set to star Imogen Poots. An official synopsis of the film, per IndieWire, describes it as a “lyrical journey through a life saved by art.”
If that last quote guides Stewart’s feature debut, her music video with boygenius provides more-than-sufficient training wheels. Faced with combining three deeply personal, layered compositions into one story, Stewart delivers. Armed with a returning triptych motif of Bridgers, Dacus, and Baker shuffling in and out of frame, Stewart weaves the women’s stories into one friendship-affirming, completely cathartic viewing experience that (if you’re anything like this writer) makes you cry, then want to repaint your bedroom.
We dive into the video’s first song—Baker’s “20 Dollars”—with a shot of Baker arising from a slumber, ready (or not so ready) to face the day at hand. As she rushes past her mother and stumbles into a rural backyard, she comes upon two girls, clearly youthful stand-ins for Bridgers and Dacus. From the racecar bed she wakes up in to the blood oath she takes with the two kids after they race together through a field, childhood iconography abounds. The message is clear: there’s a way in which these women have known each other their whole lives. While they may not have been literal kids together, what might it have looked like if they had, if the past were reimagined through the lens of right now? It’s a pertinent question, given how much of boygenius’ music grapples with finding empathy for a former lover, a former friend, or a former self.
Next, Bridgers takes center-stage (or more appropriately, center-sandpit) in an empty arena to sing “Emily I’m Sorry” as monster trucks crashes and swerve behind her, giving a face to the dreams of “screeching tires and fire” Bridgers sings about on the track. Wearing nothing but her pajamas—t-shirt, boxer briefs, and ankle socks—Bridgers doesn’t break eye contact with the camera as it pulls further and further away from her without letting up focus.
With this shot, Stewart effectively conjures the fearfully shameful emotion of really apologizing to a friend: not over text, or through a third party, but standing humbly before them and looking them in the eye. As the segment concludes, Dacus passes Bridgers a match, which Baker lights; Bridgers sets fire to the trucks, and smiles. Yet again, there are her collaborators, side by side, helping to set her free from guilt, gluttonous self-punishment, or something in between the two.
Finally, it’s time for Dacus’ anthemic love song “True Blue,” which finds the trio in a viscerally apt scenario: together, painting an entire house and themselves deep, true blue, taking breaks only to grap lollipops and occasionally kiss each other. The last shot of the video combines the triptych motif into one image, of Dacus, Bridgers, and Baker holding each other, under the covers, the early-morning sleepover energy almost tangible through the grainy lens filter. When Dacus sings “I can’t hide from you like I hide from myself,” it’s easy to imagine who she might be singing to. The chemistry and deep-seated connection comes as a part of the boygenius project; all Stewart had to do was capture it. Mission understood, relished, and accomplished.