The broad, one-word title calls attention to the nameless protagonist of Chad Faust’s gritty, warped debut feature, Girl. It is a taut, small-scale thriller that possesses a well-rounded cast and a lot of familial twists. Not always firing on all cylinders, Chad Faust’s family narrative may not be of much depth, but it is malformed and bleakly engaging. The film follows a distressed young woman (Bella Thorne), whose slovenly clothes and unsettled demeanor show obvious signs of being emotionally bruised by a monster from her past. Clearly, this isn’t the first time a steely lead ventures on a path of vengeance. Even so, it’s a fairly workable formula that has previously yielded engaging discourse on morality and justice.
We first meet the unnamed woman on a bus ride to the secluded town her father resides in. This lady intends to kill her abusive father after sending an intimidating letter to her mother (Elizabeth Saunders). The visibly dejected girl hasn’t seen her father since she was 6-years-old, around the time he taught her how to throw a hatchet, of all things. Her father’s latest threat of violence against her mother has prompted the girl to contemplate murder, and it is only appropriate that she intends to use a hatchet to finish the job. She arrives at the dingy town and immediately looks for information about her father’s whereabouts.
“…a distressed young woman…intends to kill her abusive father…”
Along the girl’s aimless trek through town, she interacts with an unusually suspicious sheriff (Mickey Rourke) and a few other townsfolk who seem to know more about her family than they should. Finding her father’s address in a phonebook at a local bar, the girl is confounded when she discovers her father’s tortured, lifeless body in the barn. Unable to fulfill her murderous task, the girl wanders the town and gets unwittingly caught up in a mystery that involves two corrupt brothers who supposedly run the town. Soon enough, she unearths a myriad of family secrets that will irrevocably alter her life.
Girl establishes a somber mood early on, as the disheveled protagonist makes one phone call to her mother, alluding to her father’s imminent murder. Juddering close-ups of the flustered protagonist enhances the gritty, rustic aesthetic the movie is going for. The unspecified, remote setting is characterized by corroding trees and untrimmed grass. Coupled with the unpresuming locations (a local dive bar, grimy laundromat, and a quaint house), Girl is an unshowy thriller that tries to kindle a hypnotically cold, foreboding atmosphere in the vein of Debra Granik’s Winter’s Bone. However, Granik has better control of her characters and how they interact with their surroundings.
"…an unshowy thriller that tries to kindle a hypnotically cold, foreboding atmosphere..."