When does your financial situation turn from “everyday stress” to “actual basis for a thriller?” Director John Patton Ford explores this in his new movie, “Emily the Criminal,” starring Aubrey Plaza.
It’s your classic story of love, loss, redemption, and forgiveness (well, debt forgiveness, anyhow). But what does a movie like this say about our economy as a whole, and what’s being done to prevent this fiction from becoming a reality?
Why the student debt crisis is a good basis for a thriller movie
Ford’s “Emily the Criminal” isn’t your average thriller. In a sense, “Emily the Criminal” is a financial thriller.
Ford takes a unique look at student loan repayment, showing how easy it is for someone to fall into debt if they don’t understand the basics of finance. Emily (Aubrey Plaza) is just such a person – she falls for the wrong guy who sends her into a world of credit card fraud. Add onto that her staggering level of student loan debt ($70,000 and climbing), and it’s no wonder she’s desperate to get out of her mess.
Like Emily, many Millennials and Gen Z-ers are struggling under the weight of student loan debt. According to the National Student Loan Data System, almost 44 million Americans have student loan debt, and the average balance is $30,000.
Ford understands this intimately. During interviews, he said he graduated film school with $93,000 in student loan debt.
That’s a lot of money to pay back, and it can become a significant source of stress as student loan debt is one of the few debts that cannot be absolved in bankruptcy. For example, one study found that student loan debt is associated with increased rates of mental health problems.
How to ensure we don’t end up in a financial thriller reality
“Emily the Criminal” shines a light on the burden we’re putting on our younger generations as they try to survive a harsh economic reality. The more student loan debt accumulates, the higher the chance of becoming trapped in a financial thriller reality.
First and foremost, we need to prioritize financial education in school. Too often, we learn about finance on the job, and that’s not always the most effective way to learn.
Second, we need to make it easier for people to get out of debt. The current student loan repayment system is unnecessarily complex and difficult to manage. We need to make it easier for people to repay their loans in a timely manner and lower the interest rate on student loans.
President Biden’s executive order forgiving student loan debt was a significant step in making this happen. If the judicial system lets it through, we could see a massive positive impact that ripples into the economy, staving off a recession.
Lastly, we must ensure that there are jobs available when students graduate from college. Too often, students struggle to find jobs that pay enough money to cover their student loan debt. We need policies in place that help graduates find good jobs right away after they graduate from school.
The bottom line
In “Emily the Criminal,” Ford tells the story of one woman’s descent into a financial disaster. His film is a warning sign of what could happen if we don’t take steps to turn things around.
If you’re struggling to repay your student loan debt, don’t let Ford’s film scare you into inaction. You have options, but it’s crucial you use your voice where it matters. Advocate for better financial education in schools, talk with your representatives about backing President Biden’s student loan debt forgiveness plan and amplify the reach resources have to help others like you by sharing their information with friends or loved ones who are struggling.
Name: Michael Bertini
Job Title: Consultant