All This Panic is a marvel of a documentary. The set-up is generic enough: the daily lives of teenage girls growing up in NYC. But the execution and delivery elevate the documentary to an almost magical level and left the cinema feeling like this could be my favourite documentary ever.

Now you may be thinking, "I don't like teenagers. In fact, whenever I see them teenagering around, I want to shake my fist at them and shout, 'Damn youths!'" (me, that would be me) but don't let that prejudice keep you from experiencing All This Panic. It's honest, poignant, and perhaps one of the "realest" peeks into teenage life. I mean, what is "real" anyway (are we in The Matrix) but when watching this documentary that feeling of authenticity washes over you—that feeling of bearing witness to something special.

All This Panic follows seven girls over the course of three years: Ginger, Dusty, Lena, Delia, Sage, Olivia, and Ivy. They're arguably "typical" girls but I can also say I was definitely not even half as cool, savvy, and interesting as they are. (I blame growing up in the midwest and that my idol was Nancy Drew.) The girls are young, yes, but they're also thoughtful—sometimes even profound—and earnest and introspective.

It's this earnestness that rules Lena's life at the start of the doc; her hope that throwing a huge party will bring the boy she's crushing on.She also worries about her father and brother's mental health issues and deals with regular inquiries from child services. Sage thinks her midnight curfew is too early because she's practically an adult. She also worries about how over-sexualized girls' bodies are. Ginger banters with her sister Dusty, like all siblings do. She also opts out of college but feels like all of her friends are moving on and she is left behind. Delia begins to question her sexuality. The ordinary and the extraordinary. But that's life, isn't it?

As I mentioned before, it's the execution that makes All This Panic special. We're experiencing the girl's lives as if we are there; the camera acts like a trusted friend—a confessor, a fellow gossip, a shoulder to cry on. Sometimes they speak directly to the camera, but it is never stiff or posed or feels like an interview. Often they are acting as if they don't even notice the camera at all—so much so that I was half convinced the camera might've been invisible.

After doing a bit of research, it turns out that director Jenny Gage and her work partner/husband were Ginger and Dusty's neighbours and started filming them and getting to know them and it turned into this amazing documentary. They ended up with hundreds of hours of footage and somehow edited it down to just 80 minutes. Yet those three years and seven lives aren't rushed or crammed into that minimal space. Gage doesn't waste time with title cards or text on the screen, which also adds to the feeling of just experiencing with the girls. Our only indications of the passage of time are the changing hairstyles and changing outlooks. It's abso-fucking-lutely brilliant.

Near the end of the documentary, Lena ticks off milestones: at 16 you can drive, at 18 you can vote, and 21 you can drink, and at 25 your brain is fully developed and you can rent a Zipcar. I have zero desire to be a teenager again but watching this documentary did make me miss that eyes-wide, frantic-yet-exhilarating feeling of being young and looking ahead to those milestones. (Right now I'm looking ahead into my forties and, sigh, it just isn't the same.)

There is nothing quite like standing on the edge of the expanse and adventure of your adult life and getting to feel it again for a moment in All This Panic was everything.

ALL THIS PANIC, directed by Jenny Gage, premiered on Friday 7 October at the 2016 BFI London Film Festival. Go here to learn more.