52 Films by Women – Week 8

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The Girl in the Book (Marya Cohn, 2015)

The Girl in the Book seemingly fell through the cracks of the collective consciousness in 2015.  I watched about 75 films last year, and kept abreast as best I could on many others but I never heard of it until I randomly saw it on Netflix.  The film only grossed $5,000 so I get the feeling that I wasn’t alone in missing it.

I really enjoyed this film.  Granted, I have a predisposition to liking a girl’s coming of age story, but I think this one holds up regardless.  The film depicts two parts of its protagonist’s life.  We primarily focus on Alice as a 29-year-old working in publishing (played by Emily VanCamp).  When a famous writer Milan Daneker (Michael Nyqvist) enters the agency, we’re introduced to 16-year-old Alice (Ana Mulvoy-Ten) and told her story of how she came to know Milan.  The reunion throws Alice’s life, which had reached a level of equilibrium into chaos.

While the other acting performances are neutral to flat, Emily VanCamp is phenomenal as the lead.  I believe every emotional turn that her character takes.  And more than just that, she feels like a real person.  Even when dealing with the emotional torture VanCamp avoids over acting, and keeps the performance grounded.  I felt a lot of nuance in her performance that would be easy to lose, and unfortunately her supporting actors lacked.

While I won’t go into spoilers, the plot of the film is easy to guess, especially if you frequent the genre.  The juxtaposition of the two timelines does give The Girl in the Book its own identity.  Supplement that with the fact that the genre is completely underserved, and the film should settle well into its role.  I think that the proximity and similarity to the better film Diary of a Teenage Girl may be what ultimately relegated this film to the depths of the Netflix algorithm.  It’s a shame that it ended up there.  Hollywood seems to have an unlimited capacity for male coming of age stories, but female ones, especially ones dealing with female sexuality fall through the cracks.  Marya Cohn put together a solid to good film depicting a struggle in another woman’s life, and deserves more respect.

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