After spending a year in a juvenile center for beating up his stepfather, Todd Turnbull returns to his backwoods hometown a repentant, deeply religious boy. When he finds his best friend, ... See full summary »
Travis Quentin Young,
When Davis Green's alluring young cousin Alexis shows up on his doorstep, he discovers a side of his family that had been kept secret his entire life. As the two get closer, they set out to... See full summary »
Deborah Ann Woll
Girlfriend is a dark film, a very heavy film, weighing down on you as you watch it. There is so much going on beneath the surface of the artfully simplistic filming techniques. The viewer is forced to pay close attention to the cues within a wide shot, the secrets behind a dialogue, and the tragedies behind a profile.
The core cast is small, and we get to know each character in depth. To me, this adds to the small town feel provided by the setting of Girlfriend, Wayland, Massachusetts.
Evan is a kind and pure heart, and everything from the way he is filmed to the lines he says presents him as such. We simply see him, in his small world, reaching out to and caring about the people around him. This is exemplified when he decides to give a large sum of money to the woman he has crushed on since high school, Candy.
Candy has a difficult time believing that Evan's gift is from the kindness of his heart and not a means to an end. It is here that we get a glimpse into what her life has been like. Her past experiences and relationships have left her jaded. She's lost, held together only by her love for her son.
Russ Russ took me by surprise at how vile he was, even being prepared by the synopsis and the movie trailer. He is Candy's ex-boyfriend; violent, alcoholic, and just as lost as she. He still involves himself in her life, as does she with his, and the interaction is never healthy.
Kenny is a key pressure point in the story, helping to create conflict in an already volatile situation. His presence on screen is brief, but his impact on the story remains throughout.
During a question and answer bit after the second showing at the Toronto International Film Festival, someone asked the cast and crew about the filming techniques used in the film. I found the cinematographer's response to be very intriguing. She explained that each main character was filmed in a unique way that exaggerates the nature of their situation and personality.
Evan was filmed in wide, steady angles, so that we could see him in the middle of his world. Long takes allow the viewer to experience the passing of time in his overwhelmingly lonely reality.
Candy was always filmed lost in a tight frame, between other people or objects, to demonstrate how suffocated her character was. This certainly came across to me, often times feeling stifled just watching it.
Russ is a dark and mysterious character, and the camera got this across by shooting him from a distance and obstructing the view. Russ is always lurking in the back of your mind from the moment you meet him. My first time seeing the film, I was often left with a knot in my stomach after his scenes, just from the feeling of dread that his persona left with me.
I wholeheartedly believe that the cast chosen for this movie was beyond perfect. My congratulations go out to the production team for putting together such a successful band of talent. Evan Sneider is without a doubt the star, and his portrayal of everything from kindness, innocence, longing, hurt, and anger left me breathless. He masterfully delivered some of the most impacting lines in the film.
Shannon Woodward seems to be worn beyond her years as Candy. She presents the character as so lost and hopeless, tired of life in general, with little to cling to. There was a moment of having to return my mind to reality after the film when I had the pleasure of meeting Shannon, sweet and vibrant and humble.
Jackson Rathbone as Russ was absolutely haunting. From the moment you meet his character in the movie, the hair on the back of your neck stands up and you just know he's nothing but trouble. All through the film he demonstrates time and time again that he is in a dark, dark place. It is a testament to Jackson's talent as an actor that there are moments when you find yourself hurting for Russ, and you feel conflicted about it. Jackson's mastery of Russ' facial expressions was what impressed me the most. In any scene, you can see and hear what Russ is putting out there, but see another emotion cross his face; doubt, revulsion with himself, shame, hurt. It is in these moments that you see the man behind the hard exterior, the man that knows when he is doing wrong, the man that feels emotions like anyone else.
So much went into making this film as beautiful as it was, and my review wouldn't be complete without mentioning the original score and soundtrack. The score was composed by the band 100 Monkeys, whose members include Jerad Anderson and Jackson Rathbone (both Girlfriend actors and producers,) M. Lawrence Abrams, Ben Johnson, and Ben Graupner. Its sound is raw and often times dark, much like the story, with subtle drones and dramatic crescendos that aided the suspense and anticipation prevalent throughout the movie. The soundtrack features well placed songs by talents such as Daniel Johnston and Spencer Bell. It is clear that everything, from the cast, the camera angles, the dialogue and the music, was chosen with the utmost care and attention, and was, to me, a total success.
I came away from the movie feeling that it was a very bold and very important film. It touches on so many themes; prejudice, necessity, humanity, abuse, love. Seeing it twice wasn't enough, and I feel such a strong desire for everyone in the world to get to see it now.
I congratulate everyone involved on an amazing and touching film. It has important statements to make, and I know that it will continue to make them as it wins the hearts of everyone that sees it.
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