As the girl unravels her family mystery, the film never truly vitalizes the emotional stakes associated with her journey for retaliation and clarity, which more or less has to do with the fact that the supporting characters overshadow the protagonist. This has less to do with character development than it does with the curiously odious desires of the big bad men who circle the girl like hungry, meddling sharks. As the girl confronts one bad man after another, she’s treated as the victim, but her internal wounds aren’t palpably felt or cleverly explored.
There is little time spent reflecting on the girl’s amplified feelings of rage, isolation, and fear in moments of peril. The scene in which the shifty sheriff stares down the girl while driving next to her should have been entirely shot from the girl’s viewpoint, but the camera unwisely lingers on the sheriff’s foul smile. The fleeting interactions between the girl and the cryptic townsfolk trickle with unease or perfidy. And for the most part, these interactions preserve the mystery of every character’s motivation, regardless of how predictable they end up being. But these confrontations, especially those with the unscrupulous brothers, needed to emphasize facial expressions or piercing silence to drive that primal feeling of inescapable unrest that seems to follow the girl through the bucolic town.
“The actress wholeheartedly plays the role of a troubled, acrid young woman…”
Bella Thorne takes on a far more strenuous role than typical, one that’s vastly different from the other roles she played in the past. Despite a wobbly Southern accent, Thorne does what she can with an underwritten and misused character. The actress wholeheartedly plays the role of a troubled, acrid young woman simply looking for direction. Funnily enough, Thorne’s character isn’t propelled down any foreseeable, let alone a coherent path that warrants further scrutiny, and that could be based on how the girl’s perspective is unfulfilled by forces behind the camera.
Writer-director Chad Faust even has a role as one of the devilishly vile brothers, known solely as Charmer. Boasting a delusive smile and an eerily perky disposition, Faust’s Charmer is a genuinely terrifying presence that elevates the suspense with a calm menace. Mickey Rourke plays the overly suspect sheriff with a comical sense of menace, though he never matches Faust’s manifestation of evil.
While the title is named after the female protagonist, Faust doesn’t wholly value her perspective. However, looking at Girl as a grainy, strained family mystery, there is some crooked pleasure to be had trying to juggle one dramatic twist after another alongside the equally bemused protagonist.
"…an unshowy thriller that tries to kindle a hypnotically cold, foreboding atmosphere..."