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In Los Angeles, a story about a dead girl, told in five chapters. A woman, miserable in her circumscribed life caring for her domineering mother, finds a body. Somehow, this discovery allows her to change. At the morgue, the sister of a girl missing for 15 years believes the body is that of her sister; this liberates her. An older woman, married to a man who pays her little attention, finds evidence in a storage unit; how will she handle it? The mother of the dead girl, who left home some years before, visits the last place her daughter lived and makes her own discoveries. Last, we flash back to the victim's final day. Written by
Karen Moncrieff's 'The Dead Girl' tells the harrowing tale of five women whose fractured lives are affected by the discovery of a dead girl. There's the fragile and abused Arden (Toni Collette) who discovers the body, the tormented Leah (Rose Byrne) the medical examiner of the body, frustrated Ruth (Mary-Beth Hurt), the wife of the man who murdered the girl, a concerned Melora, mother of the dead girl and the title girl (Brittany Murphy) desperate to get presents to her daughter.
Moncrief is a fine storyteller and she does it with profound depth. She grabs the viewers attention from the very beginning and manages to keep the film under control without sensationalizing the story. Her subtle writing and direction are exceptional. She divides the story into five chapters and she takes the method of non-linear storytelling to a new level. At first she starts off by showing us the perspective of the stranger who is only linked to the girl in the title because she found her mutilated body. Then she shows us the point of view of the medical examiner, followed by the killer's wife, mother and the girl in question. There is a lyrical quality in the way these five sad stories are portrayed. The score is efficiently used.
'The Dead Girl' additionally shines with one of the finest ensembles that delivers poignant performances. Toni Collette, Rose Byrne, Marcia Gay Harden, Piper Laurie, Mary Beth Hurt, Brittany Murphy, Kerry Washington, Mary Steenburgen, James Franco, Josh Brolin and Giovanni Ribisi are astonishing in their portrayal of broken people.
'The Dead Girl' is a frightening, sad, poignant and beautifully crafted little film about shattered lives and their longing for something different. The haunting fade-out in the end lingers in the questioning mind.
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