Most moviegoers associate A24 with wild horror films such as Hereditary, Midsommar, and Bodies, Bodies, Bodies, but they also take chances on many non-horror productions, including Oscar darling Everything Everywhere All At Once. Now, A24 is doing something completely different by backing a documentary about an orthodontist whose unconventional methods led to viral fame. Open Wide is a documentary about John Mew, a man whose strange and controversial ideas about reshaping the human jawline ended up taking TikTok by storm.
To understand Open Wide, you must first understand the insane story of the orthodontist at the center of this strange phenomenon. “Mewing” is the term given by John Mew and his son Michael Mew to a form of DIY facial restructuring.
At its most basic form, this technique involves resting your tongue in a certain way, breathing through your nose with your mouth closed, and embracing a straight posture while chewing food and even chewing with your tongue in a certain way.
“Mewing” is the term given by John Mew and his son Michael Mew to a form of DIY facial restructuring.
Why would anyone want to do this, exactly? As the Open Wide documentary elaborates, this technique is supposed to help you sleep better, reduce pain, and (most importantly, according to its followers) lift the jawline. Done right, this technique is meant to subtly transform the shape of your face without you having to get any kind of proper orthodontic surgery.
Accordingly, some of the Mews’ biggest opponents for decades have been other orthodontists. Though the father/son duo didn’t achieve viral fame until 2019, the Open Wide documentary explores how the elder Mew has been carrying this fight on for decades.
the British Orthodontic Society threatened Michael Mew with expulsion, just as they previously took away his father’s license.
Among other things, he sees this technique as a less painful and much cheaper alternative for teenagers who would otherwise need braces. However, his ideas are considered fringe, and many orthodontists have spoken out about the danger of “mewing.”
Due to the aforementioned viral fame, the cat is effectively out of the bag (or should that be out of the mouth?). As the Open Wide documentary explores, the British Orthodontic Society threatened Michael Mew with expulsion, just as they previously took away his father’s license.
Don’t expect Open Wide to be a hit piece on the Mews: according to Goldblatt, she wanted to direct this documentary because she fell down the “rabbit hole” of exploring the family story embedded within the medical controversy
None of this has diminished the father and son’s online fame, however, and they have spent years creating content whose popularity threatens to make mewing mainstream.
Regardless of how you feel about mewing, TikTok, or both, it sounds like Open Wide is going to be a fascinating documentary. It’s directed by Sara Goldblatt, who previously directed Dr. Feelgood, about a doctor who eventually went to jail for overprescribing various opioids to his patients.
Despite that experience, don’t expect Open Wide to be a hit piece on the Mews: according to Goldblatt, she wanted to direct this documentary because she fell down the “rabbit hole” of exploring the family story embedded within the medical controversy, and she thinks others will enjoy discovering the various facets of this strange story as much as she did.
It won’t be long before Goldblatt learns the answer to that question: Open Wide premieres on Netflix on January 23. We’ve got our fingers crossed that the documentary has the same raw power and fascinating insights as A24’s previous documentary Val, which focused on the life of Val Kilmer. If nothing else, we have a feeling this documentary will make us question whether TikTok was a mistake even more than we already do.