Learning How Awful Grown-Ups Can Be in The Girl
If a Grimm heroine were to resurrect herself in a late-20th-century body, that body would surely belong to the nameless waif in Swedish director Fredrik Edfeldt's slyly insidious feature debut. Left home alone when her parents go off to save the world in Africa, this sharp-eyed hamster (played with precocious restraint by Blanca Engström) watches as her lush of an aunt (Tova Magnusson-Norling) quickly proves a less than viable caretaker. The small country town where the Girl has grown up sheds its respectable veneer and reveals itself as a hellhole of mendacity and sex-starved perversity. Gorgeously framed by cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema, the Turner-esque beauty of the landscape at harvest time only adds to the creepiness as the Girl makes do, makes friends, and then unravels in the most creative ways. As in all quality fairy tales, a handsome stranger rides to the rescue on a rather unusual steed—though by now, one is braced for child molestation at the very least. Does the Girl come of age in the final reel? Yes, and no, but the pleasure lies in watching this observant, inventive child prepare to become a future artist before our eyes.
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