You know that one find, that one gem you discover at a film festival? The one that surprises you in such a way, you can't help but (somewhat gloatingly) try to explain its brilliance to everyone for months until its theatrical release? Perhaps I'm peaking early, being only Day 2 of the 2014 Sydney Film Festival, but 'God Help The Girl' could be that movie to me.
Eve (Emily Browning) could be anyone's rebellious daughter: breaking out of a window to watch a bunch of unknown bands play. But she's no ordinary girl - she's suffering from an extreme eating disorder, and she's breaking out of a hospital. After taking a turn for the worse, she's cared for by one band's frontman James (Olly Alexander). It doesn't take long before Eve breaks out again - and with the help of new-found friend Cass (Hannah Murray - 'Skins', 'Game Of Thrones'), the three try to get Eve's life back to normal.
It may come as a bit of a shock, then, to find that the method used to convey this somewhat weighty story is, in fact, a musical. It may also surprise you to hear that it's done really superbly (not that unbelievable, really, as the film is written and directed by Stuart Murdoch, who also happens to be the lead singer of Belle and Sebastian). The trio of friends form a tight bond and start their own band, in an attempt to brighten all of their lives, but none moreso than Eve's.
To make this film shine, real talent was needed, and careful consideration has been given to the casting. Hannah Murray is fantastic to watch on screen, enchanting in every scene she's in. Likewise, Olly Alexander has great fun with the nerdily confident James. However, Australia's own Emily Browning is fixating from her very first musical number, with just the right balance of energy and caution to create her character. This may be the first role where she's really been able to lead a cast, and she inarguably makes Eve her own. Moreso, she has some phenomenal musical abilities, resulting in well-crafted and memorable tunes throughout the film.
Australia's own Emily Browning is fixating from her very first musical number, with just the right balance of energy and caution.
This is a strangely shot movie, typically quirky and somewhat surreal, but it does succeed within the context of the film. Given this is Murdoch's first time directing (and writing), there are some surprisingly brave choices made here - and the good news is, the majority of them work to great effect.
From the get-go, 'God Help The Girl' feels like one big music video clip, but it is so much more than that. It's about growing up (or not wanting to), proving yourself, and living up to your own expectations. I hope you see 'God Help The Girl', and I hope you like it. The film's heart and humour will surely see this become a cult success.
'God Help The Girl' will next screen at the Sydney Film Festival on Saturday the 14th June 2014 at 8:45pm.