A Good Woman is Hard to Find Movie Review
Written by Rachel Knightley
Released by Signature Entertainment
Directed by Abner Pastoll
Written by Ronan Blaney
2019, 97 minutes, Not Yet Rated
Frightfest World premiere on 26th August 2019
Sarah Bolger as Sarah
Edward Hogg as Leo Miller
Andrew Simpson as Tito
Jane Brennan as Alice
Caolan Byrne as Terry
Recently-widowed young mother Sarah (Sarah Bolger, Once Upon A Time, Into the Badlands, The Spiderwick Chronicles) is trying to give six-year-old Ben (Rudy Doherty) – elective mute since witnessing his father’s murder – and four-year-old Lucy (Macie McCauley) as good a life as she can on the breadline, and in the shadow of a police force shunning her husband’s death as a falling-out between drug dealers. Then Tito (Andrew Simpson, Notes On A Scandal, Road Games) bursts through the front door, demanding to stash stolen drugs in her flat. Sarah sees no escape or help, from the law or from Tito, until she realises he might have information about her husband’s death and, with it, the chance to build a normal life.
Written by Ronan Blaney (Booglaoo and Graham) and directed by Abner Pastoll (Road Games), this light-treading, high-impact thriller is a masterclass in character, action and atmosphere. Sarah’s economic situation and emotional isolation are introduced with eloquent, momentum-fuelled dialogue and cinematography. The often bitterly comedic, articulate scenes of surviving daily life on her estate show her surrounded by people yet utterly isolated.
Bolger is supported by a practically perfect jigsaw of supporting cast making up this claustrophobic estate and surrounding town – the scenes with her mother Alice (Jane Brennan) are a particularly agonising delight, this convincingly well-meant yet utterly soured relationship displaying how the antagonist within Sarah’s world is every bit as destructive to her self-esteem as the antagonist without: Brennan’s attacks pack every bit as much power as the smug violence of Edward Hogg as Leo Miller, the gangland boss whose level of violence even the psychopathically overconfident Tito fears. The balance of needing to stand up to those with her best interests at heart and those with the opposite intentions makes for captivating character development, its implications beyond the immediate storyline quietly clear.
If certain cameos seem self-consciously quick to patronise Sarah in their conversations, that’s very much a part of the message and the journey: what makes others overlook Sarah has also made her overlook herself – and that is what has to change if her life is going to. This is very much a story about life teaching us the lessons we need and not the ones we want – in order to be a good person, rather than allow her kindness to translate to victimhood, Sarah has to do things she wouldn’t have believed herself capable of to go out and claim the better life she wants for herself and children.
The script’s ease of manner will not stop you noticing how elegant the series of pay-offs are that run throughout – an out-and-out success as a thriller, it also succeeds as black comedy and kitchen-sink drama, with a social message about power and empathy for which every slash hits home. Sarah’s and Ben’s journeys towards claiming their voices in an unjust world, instead of hiding from their own agency, are gently and movingly explored. The shock comes from the story, not from the intention to shock. Dialogue and gags all convincingly within character creating a real sense of community and danger.
Starting off as a search for an external truth, the power of this richly satisfying thriller is that of an individual to move beyond their own behaviour patterns and opinion of themselves to discover their power to make changes for themselves and others.
Best of all, this journey from powerlessness to agency belongs to a heroine who is utterly believable because she is written as a human being – not self-consciously or over-deliberately female but a human being with the same emotional, familial, sexual and other drives as any human being. On all counts, this is a film that shows what horror is capable of when it stops talking down to itself.
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