Nerve is a 2016 movie, based on a 2012 YA thriller by the author Jeanne Ryan. The movie follows high school senior Vee (Emma Roberts) as she plays Nerve with Ian (Dave Franco).
The first scene reveals Vee as an aspiring photographer who is smothered by her mother Nancy (Juliette Lewis). This is largely because Nancy is still grieving the death of Vee’s brother. After Vee’s friend Sydney (Emily Meade) humiliates her in front of her crush, J.P. (Brian Marc), Vee signs up for Nerve on impulse, to prove that she can take risks and isn’t another ordinary girl.
Nerve is an online reality game where individuals can sign up to be either a player (where they can complete dares to earn money, “bail” on assigned dares, or fail and lose all of their previously earned money), or pay to watch as “watchers.” Dares are generally assigned based on the player’s personality. The aim of the game is to become one of Nerve’s top-watched players and to complete the dare in the final round to win.
While Vee was first assigned simple dares (such as kissing a stranger, trying on a Couture dress, and getting a tattoo), the game slowly takes on a sinister tone. As the movie progresses, watchers suggest riskier dares, such as asking Ian to hang off a crane, one-handed, for five seconds.
Through her best friend Tommy (Miles Heizer), Vee learns that Ian has played Nerve before, and is now a prisoner of the game. Prisoners are forced to play Nerve again as the game has confiscated their identities and drained their bank accounts.
Feeling threatened, Vee heads to the police to snitch on the game, as she believes that the game is too dangerous to continue. However, one of Nerve’s few rules is that a player must not report the game to any member of the law enforcement. Vee’s snitching results in her becoming a prisoner of the game too, and her only option is to win the game, or play again until she does.
Nerve is a fast-paced movie, which helps cover up a number of flaws. However, the movie is a good critique of social media—especially how the desire to be “viral” can result in the formation of addictive subcultures that individuals want to please, no matter the cost or danger.