God Help the Girl (2014)
I’m a bit worried. I love this film! Read any reviews though and they’re usually not favourable. Now it could be dubbed a musical, but it’s not really or at least it’s more of a romance with a good dose of drama and yes quite a few songs. The songs you see are present because it’s directed by Stuart Murdock of Belle & Sebastian. The characters are immersed in music and this is where it draws its energy. It’s a bit twee and maybe that’s why it doesn’t connect with everyone, but it’s unashamedly lovely. When James (Olly Alexander) takes Eve (Emily Browning) home one evening after a gig (his gig that doesn’t go too well), it’s all very innocent. There is one problem though, Eve shouldn’t be at a gig, she’s supposed to be locked up in a facility being treated for anorexia. How Eve has come to this point in her young life isn’t explained, but it’s the focus and undercurrent of the whole film. Eve is the star. Music is salvation and the music, written by Murdock is light, bright and bouncy, it’s whimsical indie pop. As of this weren’t enough in the hipster credentials column, we also get little sound bites from Stuart Maconie and Mark Radcliffe on the radio. Why, it’s not entirely clear, although Eve does try to send them a tape of her songs, but anyway they’re nice harmless interjections. Eve gets out of the hospital and befriends James, the most awkward guy in Glasgow and they become flat mates. Up to this point, it’s actually quite somber. Eve’s situation isn’t a happy one and she’s quiet, apprehensive to engage. Living with James though seems to provide stability and time to write songs. Songs that Eve uses to make sense of her world. Songs that we get to hear of course and that play out in scenes like pop videos, or at least the kind made by The Pastels, Pulp, Belle & Sebastian. James twigs that with his guitar and Eve’s words, there may future recording potential. Enter James’ friend Cassie. Cassie is well to do, living in a grand home, far removed from James’ student flat style existence. With the three of them together, the music flows and the tweeness goes off the charts. Now I will admit, these characters are posh, white, privileged. Their troubles it appears are mostly emotional. It does give it an air of being superficial. They’re inoffensive though, likeable. Although less so perhaps in the case of Anton (Pierre Boulanger), the singer in a punk band (still a twee punk band), who takes a shine to Eve and is generally a bit creepy. Maybe it’s a French thing, but he’s always touching Eve and seems more preoccupied with how she looks than anything else. He’s not much of a villain, but as close as you’ll get here. James on the other hand wants to take care of Eve, he’s in love, but still sweet. He’s firmly in the friend zone through. Eve isn’t looking for a relationship. She keeps James and everyone else at a distance, but their friendship is, well... it’s nice. Everything about God Help The Girl is nice. At one point, Cassie says as they’re kayaking on a day out “This is weird, good weird” and that sums it up well as it strikes a chord between melancholia and hope. Back to the music, the three realise they’ll need help to flesh out their folkpop vision, so start posting flyers, because again, twee. In fact thinking about it, there’s no mention or evidence of the Internet. Within one scene, they have a rhythm section, backing singers and strings. Impressive! This film really does have a fantastical nature to it. So when James sends a random dog called Captain to go fetch Cassie who’s eating an ice cream across town, to meet him and Eve at a dance lesson they’ve gate crashed, it seems completely plausible. Before we know it, what started as a dusty dancehall with a few pensioners, turns into an impromptu gig. Eve is never far from a relapse through, she’s fragile, unable to cope without her friends. When Anton turns out to be the shit we expected, Eve tumbles and winds up back in care. It’s a blip, but one that brings a change. One that will see the end of the band, but not before one last (and first) show. It’s got a ton of flaws, the acting is not great, but it’s not terrible either, but I needn’t have worried, I still love it. An unlikely feel good film.