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Helen (2008)

Unrated | | Drama | 1 May 2009 (Ireland)
2:08 | Trailer

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Helen is a teenage girl who, when asked by the police to play the stand-in for a reconstruction, realizes it gives her a chance to confront her own troubled past.
3 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Annie Townsend Annie Townsend ... Helen
Sandie Malia Sandie Malia ... Mrs Thompson
Dennis Jobling Dennis Jobling ... Mr Thompson
Sonia Saville Sonia Saville ... Police Officer Saville
Danny Groenland Danny Groenland ... Danny
Sheila Hamilton Sheila Hamilton ... Personal Advisor
Betty Ashe Betty Ashe ... Key worker
Gavin Huscroft Gavin Huscroft ... Drama teacher
Charlene James Charlene James ... Police officer
Keith Saha Keith Saha ... Police officer
Marti Williams Marti Williams ... Detective Williams
Maria Vishnjakova Maria Vishnjakova ... Hotel chambermaid
Eddie Hardy Eddie Hardy ... College lecturer
Paul Graham Paul Graham ... Hotel manager
Middleton Anna Middleton Anna ... College student


An 18 year old girl called Joy has gone missing. Another girl called Helen is a few weeks away from leaving her care home. Helen is asked to 'play' Joy in a police reconstruction that will retrace Joy's last known movements. Joy had everything. A loving family, a boyfriend, a bright future. Helen, parent-less, has lived in institutions all her life and has never been close to anyone. Gradually Helen begins to immerse herself into the role, visiting the people and places that Joy knew; quietly and carefully insinuating her way into the lost girl's life. But is Helen trying to find out what happened to Joy that day, or is she searching for her own identity? Written by Slater, Ben (III)

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Two girls are lost. One has disappeared, the other is trying to find herself.




Unrated | See all certifications »


Official Sites:

Official site [France]


UK | Ireland



Release Date:

1 May 2009 (Ireland) See more »

Also Known As:

Helen - Autopsie d'une disparition See more »


Box Office


£293,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$8,551 (United Kingdom), 3 May 2009, Limited Release
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Desperate Optimists See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Follows Joy (2008) See more »

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User Reviews

Mysterious, weird, beautiful.
1 October 2008 | by BloomerSee all my reviews

I saw about twenty films at the 2008 Sydney Film Festival, and Helen was probably my favourite feature. Steadfast in mystery, atmosphere, weirdness and emotional bleakness, the film follows the slow-growing obsession of the eponymous heroine with the former life of another girl, Joy, who disappeared in the local park one day, and whom Helen is 'playing' in a police reconstruction of the event.

The film has a beautiful cryptic quality, not in any conventional kind of whodunnit sense, but as regards both the elusive character of Helen and the nature of the film itself. The long, unbroken takes, great silences and restrained, almost self-effacing interactions amongst the characters generate fascination and curiosity. Is it some kind of hyper-naturalism? Or the opposite of naturalism? The players are often facing away from each other, or off the screen, or shot from behind, or just so that you can't see their faces. When a creepily patronising policewoman arrives to brief Joy's schoolmates about the reconstruction of the disappearance, half the scene is viewed via its reflection in a mirror.

Some of the dialogue is bizarre in its expositional nature, enough to prompt amusement, yet at others times it is completely evasive. Helen feels such a great hollow within herself (she has been raised in care, and her past and parentage are shrouded in mystery) that her vocalisation mostly consists of dull murmured statements. The strongest indication that some of the weirdness is in droll taste is an amusing scene in which a morose-looking teacher appears to do the worst job in the world in trying inspire the students with talk of 'blue skies thinking'.

The film is framed by metronomically perfect editing, fades to black, abstraction-making shots of dappled light filtering through park trees and a glacial ambient score. It reminded me at times of David Lynch in its poetic design. It offers a unique vision of a situation which opens onto multiple mysteries, most importantly the mystery of what is inside Helen, played with supernatural understatement by Annie Townsend. And it is emotionally confronting, with some moments that are very difficult to bear. This is beautiful cinema.

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