For the 2019 Fantasia International Film Festival, I had the opportunity to check out director Abner Pastoll’s (Road Games) latest film A GOOD WOMAN IS HARD TO FIND, written by Ronan Blaney. The film, which centers on a recently widowed woman seeking the truth about her husband’s murder, is a harrowing tale of one woman’s journey in finding the strength within. The film stars Sarah Bolger (Mayan MC), Edward Hogg (White Lightnin) and Andrew Simpson (Notes on a Scandal).
To best describe the film, I’ll turn to the plot description provided by Fantasia: “Raising a child alone is never easy. Recently widowed young mother Sarah (Bolger) is struggling to cope through uniquely harrowing circumstances, living in a rough neighborhood that’s largely under the control of a cruel drug baron (Hogg). Her son, Ben (Rudy Doherty), hasn’t spoken a word since the day he watched his father get knifed to death on their very estate. Dismissing the crime as thugs killing each other, police haven’t done a thing to help, and Sarah’s very much on edge. One day, a local dealer (Simpson) breaks into her home. He’s ripped off the neighborhood kingpin and insists on stashing his take in her place. Fearful for the wellbeing of her son and having zero confidence in the police helping them, she allows him to. He keeps coming back. She doesn’t know what to do. But she’s got to do something.”
When we first meet Sarah she’s a quiet and reserved woman. Having lost her husband and raising two kids on her own, Sarah is barely making ends meet all the while dealing with her son’s refusal to speak. Lonely and without answers to who was responsible for her husband’s death, Sarah goes day to day as if she was a ghost of her former self. Then one day her life gets rocked when a man named Tito breaks into her house and warns her that no harm will come to her and her children as long as he can stash drugs for a few days until he can get rid of them. It’s at this point, that Sarah life is completely rocked for the second time and she’s forced to find her inner strength in order to become the woman she’s capable of being. What makes this film so remarkable is easily that of Sarah Bogler’s performance. The evolution of her character, from a meek and quiet individual to one that can stand her ground and use violence when necessary, is nothing less than superb. Whether it’s the horrific notion of what she must do to protect herself, and her kids, from Tito or the moments when she is able to stand up against her overly condescending mother, there’s a strength to Sarah that many women will be able to relate to.
It’s not just the acting that makes this film memorable but also the music from Matthew Pusti. I noticed it quite early on in the film and was taken aback by how perfectly it fit with the unfolding narrative. There are moments of heavy bass that lead up to the fast-paced instrumental rhythm which beautifully accompanies the more dramatic moments. Speaking of that narrative, the writing is tight and sharp, never straying into territory that seems unneeded to the story at hand. Furthermore, the audience gets to see inside not just Sarah’s tale but also that of Tito’s and the Leo. It’s easy for a story to get lost when three narratives are at play, but all three of these were concise, allowing for easy navigation during the audience’s viewing. I think what made it so simple to follow was that it all took place during the same time period, culminating in a climax that is both bloody and satisfactory. Though there are moments that lend themselves to being a tad unbelievable, it doesn’t take away from Sarah’s monumental change, both on the inside and outside.
A GOOD WOMAN IS HARD TO FIND is also a reminder of how women are still treated today. Some of you may be quick to scoff because the film is written and directed by men but believe me when I say they are 100% rooting for the woman. We are presented with two main male characters: Tito and Leo. Both treat Sarah as if she’s nothing more than a silly girl who doesn’t know what she’s doing. There’s a scene in particular when Tito decides to just chill at Sarah’s house that enraged me because he, being the intruder, treated her as if she was the maid. As for Leo, he’s your prototypical villain who is barely concerned with Sarah apart from what she may know about Tito. Even the grocer at the store she goes to acts as if she’s willing to give it up for a few bucks. In the end, this shows how quickly some men are willing to underestimate women. However, that just means they end up never seeing what’s coming until it’s too late. Just to be safe, I will say for those who need a trigger warning, there is a scene where one of the characters is attempting to rape Sarah. It’s not played out painfully long but it may be uncomfortable for some viewers to witness especially due to the realistic nature of the film. I will say, the conclusion to that scene is one that is gratifying and propels Sarah to take matters into her own hands. I appreciate both the writer and the director for not going the route of gratuitous nudity and close up shots during this scene.
All in all, I think A GOOD WOMAN IS HARD TO FIND is an exceptional film from director Abner Pastoll. I have the highest praise for Sarah Bolger’s performance and the dedication she clearly gave to this role. Though the film has moments that are tough to watch, in the end, you’ll be hard-pressed not to cheer for Sarah and her ability to overcome the worst of what humanity has thrown her way. When the credits rolled I couldn’t help but smile as I had felt as if I went on a journey with Sarah and by the end, she had reached a point where she knew she would always be okay, no matter what.