Thursday, 19 March 2015

Film Review: God Help The Girl



God Help The Girl is a British musical written and directed by Stuart Murdoch (from Scottish indie pop group Belle & Sebastian). 

It stars Emily Browning as Eve, a troubled young girl with a talent for songwriting and signing who, along with her friends James (Olly Alexander) and Cassie (Hannah Murray), delve into the Glaswegian music scene over one long, dream-like summer.

It's a coming-of-age tale that starts with Eve catching a train to the big city clutching a newspaper under her arm and singing a merry tune about striking out on her own. At first it seems straightforward and run-of-the-mill, but we soon discover that there are more imminent and pressing struggles Eve has to deal with 'back home'. Don't disregard this film as nothing more than a young adult finding her way in the city - it's not a sitcom pilot after all.

I really liked the cheeky humour that Murdoch (who both writes and directs) injects into his film - simple things like two geeks putting their glasses aside before engaging in a fist slap fight on-stage just really tickled me.

The trio of performances are really great - Browning, best known for Zach Snyder's train-wreck Sucker Punch, suits the more independent vibe better than her more mainstream roles. She's right at home surrounded by the gloomy Glaswegian streets and sporting some funky Zooey Deschanel hair. Fans of E4's Skins and HBO's Game of Thrones will love that Hannah Murray crops up as Eve's friend Cassie (not the same Cassie as in Skins, a different Cassie...I think).

Naturally, the key ingredient to any musical is good songs and songwriting. This is yet another element in which God Help The Girl succeeds - Eve and her friends find solace in the music they listen to and write. This means that the soundtrack forms the emotional backbone of the film, both in a melancholy and uplifting way. It doesn't have the same catchiness as John Carney's work in Begin Again but it's more delightfully hipster and indie.

As you can expect with any coming-of-age drama, the film delves into themes of growing up and the struggles young people go through - depression, isolation, body image, establishing independence and self-reliance. It's nothing groundbreaking, but what it does do it does in a really sensitive and delicate way.

One downside is the dubbing - it's painfully obvious that the songs have been dubbed over the top and the syncing was pretty bad. I'm sure this is the case with many musicals, but it really drew me out of some of those scenes simply because it was so obvious.

Another would be the fairly loose plotting in the middle - after the strong start, things start to lose their way in the second act as the trio happily trot from one musical set piece to another without much else going on. It perks up, but that middle stretch was something of a slog.

I liked how the film was shot and composed to look like an issue of Frankie - it sort of reminded me of Richard Ayoade's Submarine. This indie vibe is also reflected in the funky fashioning and set design. It's very cool but still decidedly British - almost like Wes Anderson directed an episode of Skins or Fresh Meat.

This excessive 'tweeness' might irk some viewers who are yearning for something a little more substantial or hardened, but I really liked it. I found that the film carried the weightier themes along in a way that was sweet and floaty.

The Verdict: 7/10


God Help The Girl is like the film equivalent of a Lucy Rose record - gentle, soft and undeniably hipster. Supported by a strong lead role by Browning and an awesome soundtrack, Stuart Murdoch's loose narrative has enough weight to be something greater than just a series of music clips ripped straight from rage. The aesthetic isn't for everyone, but both style and substance are serviced by the end.

God Help The Girl is available on DVD and VOD now.

4 comments:

  1. Great review! I loved this film. I've been a big Browning fan despite her picking some awful movies to star in, but she was great here. And the costumes were so fantastic.

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    1. Thanks Brittani! :) They were weren't they? So hip and fashionable those whippersnappers of today ;)

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  2. I didn't realize this was a musical, or maybe I forgot, but this is like the tenth review that was favorable for this so I finally added this to my Netflix queue! Great review.

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    1. And a pretty good one too! I guarantee you'll want to head over to iTunes and have another listen to the soundtrack as soon as the movie is done :) Thanks for commenting mate! :)

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