×
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.

With:
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

  • Vice Christian Bale Sam Rockwell Playback

    'Vice' Reviews: What the Critics Are Saying

    Reviews are in for Adam McKay’s Dick Cheney biopic, and it’s not all awards-season buzz. Despite garnering six nominations for this year’s Golden Globes, McKay’s kitschy approach to the politically charged film has polarized reviewers, prompting a mix of scathing critiques and celebratory praise for the director’s distinct film style. More Reviews Film Review: 'Malila: The [...]

  • Lena Waithe Brian Tyree Henry

    Lena Waithe, Brian Tyree Henry to Present $125k in Annual Film Independent Grants

    Writer-creator Lena Waithe and actor Brian Tyree Henry will present a quarter of a million dollars in filmmaker grants come January as hosts of the annual Independent Spirit Awards nominee brunch. Waithe, this year’s Spirit Awards honorary chair, and Henry will dole out the prizes in four categories, including a $50,000 unrestricted grant for a [...]

  • Piero Tosi Luchino Visconti

    How Costume Designer Piero Tosi Dressed Up Cinema

    One of international cinema’s undisputed greats in costume design, Piero Tosi’s work first faced the awards season spotlight 64 years ago with only his third film, Luchino Visconti’s masterwork “Senso,” which competed for the Golden Lion in Venice in 1954. Nominated for five Oscars for costume design and recipient of an honorary Oscar in 2013, [...]

  • RYAN GOSLING as Neil Armstrong in

    Big Breakthroughs Seen in Below-the-Line Categories

    Is 2018 an anomaly, or is it a harbinger of things to come? The awards derbies of recent years have seen a predominance of indie films at the expense of big studio features — resulting in a slate of Oscar contenders devoid not only of genuine blockbusters but also of more modest mid-budget crowd-pleasers. This [...]

  • Fox Germany Veteran Vincent De La

    Fox Germany Veteran Vincent De La Tour Heading to Paramount Pictures

    20th Century Fox veteran Vincent de la Tour is joining Paramount Pictures in a role covering Austria, Germany and Switzerland. He will be executive vice president for theatrical and home media for those territories, overseeing the local teams and reporting to Cameron Saunders, Paramount’s EVP of international theatrical distribution, and Bob Buchi, president of worldwide [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Oscar Noise Dominated by Academy Itself, Not the Movies

    For most of its 91 years, Oscar has been surrounded by hoopla. Now it’s surrounded by noise, which isn’t the same thing. For decades, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ attitude toward the media was: “Don’t talk about the organization; instead, talk about the creative members and their movies.” More Reviews Film Review: [...]

  • Crazy Rich Asians

    Diverse Lineup of Actors Jostle for Awards Attention

    It’s been less than four years since #OscarsSoWhite became a hot topic at the Academy Awards after 2015 films like “Creed” and “Straight Outta Compton” failed to land major nominations for people of color. (It actually began the year before but picked up steam when, for the second year in a row, no people of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content