You know when you see a film & it reminds you why you love cinema & you’re excited about that love and about cinema all over again? Girl Asleep, directed by Rosemary Myers, did that for me.
It’s an impressive debut feature from Myers, who made the jump from theatre to film with Girl Asleep. I’d been kicking myself for not seeing it at least year’s Adelaide Film Festival (where it won the People’s Choice for best feature) so went to see it ASAP after it got a general release here. And I’m so glad I did. It’s my favourite film of the year. I was totally enchanted by this strange little world full of loveable weirdos. (Eliott, who is completely adorable, reminded me of a boy I went to high school with .)
Set in the ’70s it’s perfectly designed (and filmed in 1:1) from costumes to sets – the school reminded both myself and my friend of our own respective high schools. It was that blend of familiarity (the settings, finding people I know in the characters, the experiences) with the absurd and fantasy that drew me in so fully. And I always love seeing Adelaide on film.
It’s surreal, but full of heart and imagination, with not a little whimsy. It’s also hilarious (with no shortage of visual gags) and delves into the darker interior world of being an awkward teenage girl, of being an outsider. It’s quite different in (current) Australian film with its stylised nature and influences from the likes of Wes Anderson to David Lynch. In some ways, for me, it harks back to the sensibility of Strictly Ballroom and Muriel’s Wedding, with larger than life characters, who don’t become caricatures. They are still relatable.
Bethany Whitmore is fantastic in the lead role as Greta with her almost permanently perplexed expression. She’s very easy to relate to. And the rest of the cast , including the trio of mean girls, round out this world created by Myers and writer Matthew Whittet (who also plays Greta’s father) to perfection.
The dream/fantasy sequence was a little jarring at first but I quite liked that jump because dreams, themselves, can be so jarring. I liked the little bits of fantasy woven throughout the rest of the narrative, too. And the intertitles! I loved those. Very cleverly done.
This is one of those frustrating times where my limited writing skills really let me down because I just can’t articulate what I love about this movie but if you get a chance to see it, please do. I meant to post this much earlier, when it was still screening here, but life and other things got in the way (which is also why this isn’t as different from my letterboxd review as I was aiming for it to be). This is one I’m looking forward to revisiting.