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DVD Review: THE GIRL



Studio: Virgil Films
Year: 2012
Cast: Abbie Cornish, Maritza Santiago Hernandez, Will Patton
Director: David Riker
Release Date: July 02, 2013
Rating: PG-13 for thematic material including violence/disturbing images, and for language and smoking
Run Time: 01h:33m:54s
Genre(s): drama

"You drop her off at the corner and never look back." - Tommy (Will Patton)

THE GIRL

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This well-acted redemptive drama features a pair of fine performances: one from Abbie Cornish and the other from nine-year-old newcomer Maritza Santiago Hernandez. I didn't particularly care for the film overall, but Cornish and Santiago Hernandez were terrific throughout.

Movie Grade: C+

DVD Grade: B-

In The Girl - set in a dusty Texas town a couple of hours from the Mexican border - Abbie Cornish portrays Ashley, a down-and-out single mom who has lost custody of her young son, has a low-paying cashier job and believes if she just had enough cash to buy a swing set for her child she would be able to get him back from the foster family he lives with. Just when things seem most hopeless Ashley's estranged truck driver father Tommy (the always watchable Will Patton) arrives, trying to patch up their relationship. Tommy is throwing cash around pretty freely, and when the two take a trip in his rig south of the border Ashley learns her dad is smuggling people over the border into the States for a hefty fee. With the dream of a quick payday Ashley embarks on her own human smuggling adventure, which goes tragically awry, leaving her to care for a suddenly orphaned nine-year-old Mexican girl named Rosa (Maritza Santiago Hernandez).

Written and directed by David Riker (La Ciudad) The Girl moves slowly and delicately along its arc, but even this pokey deliberateness can be overlooked because Cornish - in edgy, furrowed-brow, chain-smoking desperate woman mode - shines. It's the kind of role that has to anchor this production, and Cornish does it seemingly effortlessly. Sure, maybe the Texas accent wobbles a bit, but her determination and frustration rolls off genuinely, as does her character's appearance. While far from Charlize-Theron-in-Monster territory Cornish's Ashley - minimal makeup, jeans/t-shirts - is presented as someone very three-dimensional, almost to the point of anonymity. My point being is that Ashley comes across like an actual person you may or may not notice in your everyday travels. I'm tired of films where the down-and-outer looks fabulous all the time and live in unnaturally large apartments; here under Riker's hand Ashley and her surroundings come amazingly close to real-life.

The yin to Ashley's yang is nine-year-old Rosa. After the attempted border crossing does deadly wrong, Ashley finds it impossible to abandon the young girl, and as an obvious parallel to her own child she lost it's clear that Rosa becomes a surrogate of sorts, a chance to fix something. That's the quasi-redemptive part of The Girl, as the journey of Ashley and Rosa becomes the film's second half, with its gentle (re: slow) pacing rescued by the interactions of Cornish and Maritza Santiago Hernandez. It's pretty remarkable that this - to date - is Santiago Hernandez's only film role because she more than holds her own against Cornish, expertly sidestepping the "cute kid" syndrome who spouts either wisecracks or wisdom. She's a little kid with no where to go, and Santiago Hernandez had me believing that without question.

I can't say I necessarily enjoyed the film completely, as I found it to move somewhat tediously before launching into its just-short-of-Lifetime final act. What kept me watching, however, was Cornish and Santiago Hernandez, both of whom made The Girl fairly engaging, but most importantly believably authentic.

IMAGE/AUDIO
The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer carries itself well for the most part, cleanly delivering the dusty golds and browns of Texas/Mexico with occasional dollops of brighter colors, especially during the third act. The SD presentation suffers moreso during the night sequences, where evidence of banding/macroblocking is significantly measurable. But the bulk of the transfer is generally nice looking, while ultimately remaining mostly unremarkable in any particular way.

Audio is available in either 5.1 surround or 2.0 stereo. The tracks are quite similar and are equally adequate, as this is largely a front-centric presentation without much in the way of essential surround cues. Voice clarity on both is fine, though I felt a slightly broader texture to the soundstage under the 5.1 option.

EXTRAS
Supplements consist of a theatrical trailer (02m:29s) and the behind-the-scenes featurette A Filmmaker's Journey (20m:50s), in which director David Riker presents an honestly heartfelt discussion of the film's origins and what it meant to him personally.

Posted by: Rich Rosell - January 26, 2014, 8:51 am - DVD Review
Keywords: abbie cornish, border crossing, david riker




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