You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Girl Asleep’

A 14-year-old girl navigates her lurid 1970s surroundings as well as her inner turmoil in a weird and wonderful look into the mind of a teenager.

Bethany Whitmore, Harrison Feldman, Matthew Whittet, Amber McMahon, Eamon Farren, Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Imogen Archer, Maiah Stewardson.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3955894/

Wide awake to the wonder, terror and giddy confusion of being a 14-year-old adolescent in 1970s Australia — or anywhere at any time, for that matter — Rosemary Myers’ “Girl Asleep” is a strange, savvy, big-hearted teen adventure that feels perfectly pitched to its target audience as well as those of all ages in search of something unquestionably unique. In the wake of the film’s high-profile European premiere on opening night of the Berlinale’s Generation 14plus program, like-minded sidebars at fests will come calling, with positive word of mouth and laudatory critical attention rousing sales.

On the eve of her 15th birthday, settling into a new suburb and enduring the garish uniforms of a new school, Greta Driscoll (Bethany Whitmore, an embryonic Terri Garr with freckles) has a lot on her plate and even more on her mind. Alone in the schoolyard, she is immediately befriended by the frizzy-haired and loquacious Elliott (Harrison Feldman, either consciously or probably intuitively channeling Eddie Deezen). Unfortunately, she also attracts the attention of a trio of mean girls led by the icy Jade (Maiah Stewardson), who pluck her away from the crestfallen Elliott.

Not that Greta’s home life is any more serene. Dad Conrad (Matthew Whittet, who adapted his play for the screen) struts around in tight satin gym shorts, whilst eccentric mom Janet (the scene-stealing Amber McMahon) is fond of dressing to match her cuisine and staring wide-eyed at Greta with the undisguised expectation of moms the world over. Older sister Genevieve, caught in her own growing pains with sultry b.f. Adam (Eamon Farren), is nothing but hostile.

Just as Greta mends fences with Elliott, Conrad and Janet secretly decide to throw their daughter a birthday party and promptly paper the school with invitations. Greta is at once appalled and confusingly intrigued by this social opportunity, formidable as it is. These being budding teenagers, the party comes with an understandable element of trauma: After a hilarious musical number that sees guests showcasing their disco moves on arrival, Elliott declares his love with cringe-worthy sincerity, and Jade shows up with her twin minions to play Greta a song she’s composed with the catchy title “You’ve Got No Tits.” This sends Greta to her room, where the absence of her cherished music box is the final straw that sends her into exhausted slumber.

At this point things turn decidedly Lynchian. Greta wanders into the forest behind her house, where a series of fantastical beings appear to her, as do Whittet and McMahon in very different incarnations. After being saved from unseen wolves by the mythological warrior woman the Huldra (Tilda Cobham-Hervey), Greta returns to her bedroom to find Adam, in the guise of French lounge singer Benoit Tremet, coming on to her in Elliott’s voice.

If all this sounds like an unholy blending of “Napoleon Dynamite” and “Where the Wild Things” Are by way of Wes Anderson, nothing could be further from the truth. What steers the film clear of sensationalist Australian Gothic is its genesis and stated intent. First-time feature director Myers and debuting screenwriter Whittet first mounted the play at Adelaide’s Windmill Theatre as the third part in a rites-of-passage trilogy, and Myers pointedly references child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim’s theory of adolescence as a forest through which one must pass through. Seen in this light, the film, with its musical numbers, visual gags and mild erotica, takes on new gravitas and urgency beneath the surface.

Whitmore and Feldman give performances that are nothing short of courageous, while the supporting players, many of whom worked on the stage show, remain fully committed to the spirit of the proceedings. Tech credits are as unique and pungent as the world they create. D.p. Andrew Commis (“Beautiful Kate,” “The Daughter”) shoots fluidly in a 4:3 aspect ratio that fits the material perfectly, while the true star of the production may be Jonathon Oxlade, who does yeoman’s work as production and costume designer.

A product of the Adelaide Film Festival’s Hive Fund initiative, “Girl Asleep” is an exuberant example of imaginative filmmaking that takes its cues from imagination and talent — with nary a focus group in sight.


Film Review: 'Girl Asleep'

Reviewed online, Sydney, Feb. 11, 2016. (In Berlin Film Festival — Generation 14plus, opener; 2014 Adelaide Film Festival.) Running time: 77 MIN.

Production: (Australia) A KOJO (in Australia/New Zealand) release of a Windmill Theatre, Soft Tread Enterprises presentation, production, in association with Adelaide Film Festival, Australian Broadcasting Corp., Australian Council for the Arts, Screen Australia, South Australian Film Corp., the Hive, the Ian Potter Foundation, KOJO. (International sales: Artscope/Memento Films Intl., Paris.) Produced by Jo Dyer. Executive producer, Teena Munn.

Crew: Directed by Rosemary Myers. Screenplay, Matthew Whittet, based on his stage play. Camera (color), Andrew Commis; editor, Karryn De Cinque; music, Harry Covill; music supervisor, Jemma Burns, Level Two Music; production designer/costume designer, Jonathon Oxlade; art director, Erica Brien; set decorator, Amy Baker; sound designer, Luke Smiles; re-recording mixer, Pete Best; associate producer, Myers; choreographer, Gabrielle Nankivell; assistant director, Brad Lanyon.

With: Bethany Whitmore, Harrison Feldman, Matthew Whittet, Amber McMahon, Eamon Farren, Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Imogen Archer, Maiah Stewardson.

More Film

  • Jon Feltheimer

    Lionsgate Posts Loss, Underperforms Wall Street Expectations

    Lionsgate has posted a quarterly loss and its revenues and operating income have come in under Wall Street projections, despite growth from its premium cable channel, Starz. The studio reported a net loss of $24 million, or 11 cents a share, with adjusted operating income of $103 million for its fourth fiscal quarter ended March [...]

  • Cannes: China's 'Summer of Changsha' Debuts

    Cannes: China's 'Summer of Changsha' Debuts Without Censorship Approval

    Chinese crime drama “Summer of Changsha” screened at the Cannes Film Festival in the Un Certain Regard section despite lacking the necessary approvals from China’s censors. It premiered without its director or creative team in attendance, who blamed “technical reasons” for their absence — marking the third time that Chinese censorship appears to have caused [...]

  • Jane Austin SAG AFTRA

    SAG-AFTRA Secretary-Treasurer Jane Austin Running for President

    Jane Austin, the National Secretary-Treasurer of SAG-AFTRA, has become the third candidate for the presidency of the performers union, joining incumbent Gabrielle Carteris and Matthew Modine. Austin is running as an independent for the top post at SAG-AFTRA, which has 160,000 members. Carteris will seek re-election as the head of the ticket for the Unite [...]

  • John Wick Chapter 3

    'John Wick: Chapter 3' Tones Down the Blood and Gore to Keep Look 'Totally Real'

    When Jeff Campbell, a visual effects supervisor with VFX studio Spin, initially set to work on the first “John Wick,” the 2014 action thriller from director Chad Stahelski and writer Derek Kolstad, he started with an industry-standard test: Establish a single, simple kill effect meant to get a sense of the look of the violence [...]

  • Louise Courvoisier’s ‘Mano a Mano’ Wins Cinéfondation

    Louise Courvoisier’s ‘Mano a Mano’ Wins Cannes Cinefondation Selection Top Prize

    CANNES–“Mano a Mano,” by Louise Courvoisier of France’s CinéFabrique, won the first prize Thursday at the 22nd Cinéfondation Selection,the Cannes Film Festival’s top film school shorts awards. The prize was awarded by a jury headed by French director Claire Denis (“Beau Travail”). The jury also included French actress Stacy Martin (“Godard mon amour”); Israeli writer-director Eran [...]

  • The Traitor

    Cannes Film Review: 'The Traitor'

    What surprises most about Marco Bellocchio’s Mafia drama “The Traitor” is just how straightforward it is. Given its subject — Tommaso Buscetta, the highest-ranking Mafia don to sing to the authorities — there were expectations that the director would deliver a theatrical drama along the lines of “Vincere,” but notwithstanding a few operatic flourishes, his [...]

  • Perfect Strangers

    Zhao Tao, Rajkumar Hirani Join Shanghai Festival Jury

    Italian director Paolo Genovese and Chinese actress Zhao Tao are among members of the jury for the upcoming Shanghai International Film Festival. They join the previously announced jury president, 2014 Cannes Palme d’Or winner Nuri Bilge Ceylan, the Turkish director behind last year’s “The Wild Pear Tree.” Genovese’s 2016 film “Perfect Strangers” made $7.7 million [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content