A Girl Upstairs Image

A Girl Upstairs

By Ryan Devir | May 17, 2024

A Girl Upstairs, directed by Kevin Van Stevenson and written by John Gee, tackles coping with trauma and therapeutic escape through art. Audiences will recognize elements of The Wolf HourRuby Sparks, and Identity interwoven throughout the 90-minute runtime. The mysterious drama has an unsettling atmosphere that will satisfy Ti West fans. That being said, like so many of his West’s films, this slow burn doesn’t do enough with its characters to justify being feature-length. With the character development the screenwriter gives us, this would’ve been more effective as a short.

A reclusive, agoraphobic artist, Dulce (Holly Blair), receives a mysterious canvas from her art dealer. Said canvas has the power to bring her paintings to life. At first, enjoying the disruption to her isolation, Dulce soon discovers that her new creations want to see the world outside her apartment walls. She lives in a small apartment above a movie theater that plays classic films. Dealing with the trauma of having been kidnapped as a child, her only relief is found in art and spying on the theater’s manager, with whom she is infatuated. At night, Dulce fills pants and a shirt with newspaper to mimic a body and spoons with it, pretending to be with her theater crush. She is desperate for companionship but is crippled by her fear of the outdoors.

“…discovers that her new creations want to see the world outside her apartment walls.”

Dulce decides to paint an image of the manager. Before the image dries, the canvas falls onto the mysterious skin-like material that her art dealer had sent her. The artist is terrified to discover a naked clone standing in her apartment. She names him Webster (Gustavo Cintra) and begins to teach him how to eat, paint, and, most importantly, not to go outside. Webster sees that Dulce has a painting of a woman whom she calls Mimi (Sara Catherine Bellamy) and convinces the painter to bring her to life. Mimi develops mentally much quicker than Webster, speaking almost immediately, and questions Dulce’s authority. She wants more than to remain isolated. She uses her wit, charm, and cunning to break free in any way she can.

A Girl Upstairs is eerie and atmospheric. Unfortunately, the gripping ending doesn’t hit as hard as it could have. This is because the film doesn’t take advantage of the exciting idea of paintings coming to life. Dulce is too quick to accept the fact that she has a magic skin canvas that produces humans. You’re constantly left wanting the pacing to pick up, for Dulce’s childhood trauma to connect, or for her to discover something deeper about the Necronomicon-looking canvas she’s painting on. Instead, the ideas raised remain locked inside like Dulce herself.

While finely acted and sporting quite the atmosphere, A Girl Upstairs is unable to invest the audience into the characters. Their arcs aren’t explored enough to be gripping, and story strands take too long to come together. Despite the good elements present, there’s not much meat on the bones.

A Girl Upstairs (2024)

Directed: Kevin Van Stevenson

Written: John Gee

Starring: Holly Blair, Gustavo Cintra, Sara Catherine Bellamy, etc.

Movie score: 5.5/10

A Girl Upstairs Image

"…eerie and atmospheric."

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