[Fantastic Fest 2020 Review] GIRL
Bella Thorne in GIRL l Courtesy of Fantastic Fest
In GIRL, a young woman has learned to face a hard life without the presence of her father. Her only memories of him are of his abuse, abandonment, and lessons in how to throw a hatchet. After the arrival of a mysterious letter from her father, that threatens the life of her mother, the girl returns to her hometown to exact her revenge. What she finds is a complicated web of secrets, deceit, and a twisted family legacy no one could have prepared her for.

GIRL is the feature debut of writer and director Chad Faust. The film stars Bella Thorne, Mickey Rourke, Glenn Gould, Lanette Ware, and Elizabeth Saunders.

The film dabbles in really interesting meditations on ancestry, family, and cycles of abuse. Through the scope of this gritty, dirt-streaked rural noir the family bond is contorted into unnatural shapes and broken down. GIRL has a bleakness to it that casts the entire piece in a dark flatness.

Beyond its exploration of twisted ideas of family and loyalty, GIRL is a jarringly effective coming of age story. The titular, nameless girl (played by Bella Thorne) has grown up yearning for the presence of a father. Despite her rage at his abuse, she still connects her memories to the man that was a part of her life until she was 6 and taught her useful things. Her journey of revenge is less about loyalty to her mother and more about her own idea of growing up and cutting off that painful memory. What she gets instead is a sudden loss of innocence as she learns that love and care can take many forms and evil can wear the friendly, familiar face of a close relative.

Bella Thorne does a solid job giving us a scrappy portrayal of a young woman fighting hard against a man’s world. While the performance doesn’t offer anything particularly nuanced or deep, Thorne carries the scenes well and sees the film through. Mickey Rourke is a perfect foil to Thorne’s fighting spirit, as a delightfully sleazy sheriff. His cool delivery and creepy calm makes the viewer feel dirty, in the best way possible. Rourke’s performance is easily the strongest in the film.

GIRL has all of the essential elements. It boasts a thoughtful script and a competent cast to see the vision to fruition. However, if I’m being perfectly honest, all of these great parts don’t equal up to a wonderful sum.

GIRL seems to lose itself along the way. The story unfolds at a choppy pace that leaves a lack of clarity. This is disappointing considering that it’s obvious GIRL is going for some higher points in its narrative. It’s a shame to see the film building up a really great story, but not hit all the necessary steps in getting that across. The result is clunky.

All of that being said, my verdict on GIRL is that it’s absolutely worth the watch. As a feature debut, it’s a competent effort and the script definitely has a depth that shows great promise. Mickey Rourke delivers a delightful case of the willies, as he pursues Bella Thorne, and it makes for an all-around fun watch.

GIRL had its World Premiere on Friday, September, 25 at the 2020 Celebration of Fantastic Fest. Screen Media announced on September 23 that it had acquired the rights to the thriller, and GIRL is anticipated to be released in November 2020.

Caitlin Kennedy
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Caitlin is a sweater enthusiast, film critic, and lean, mean writing machine based in Austin, TX. Her love of film began with being shown Rosemary’s Baby at a particularly impressionable age and she’s been hooked ever since. She loves a good bourbon and hates people who talk in movies. Caitlin has been writing since 2014 and you can find her work on Film Inquiry, The Financial Diet, Shuffle Online, and many others.
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