Girl Asleep
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Girl Asleep

The increasing emphasis placed on the amazing special effects that are currently available for movies it appears as though sometimes the most important aspect of the production is lost, the story. So many films have become overly dependent on the incredibly creative special effects teams that combine practical and computer-generated effects to create worlds, creatures’ considerations previously only possible in the fertile imagination. An unexpected corollary of the recent focus on stories derived from comic books hs changed with a significant number of these movies are not just incredible action flicks they are among the best films of the year. There was a time that the major studios concentrated almost solely on movies considered marketable. For excellence in storytelling, the dedicated cinephile usually turned to the world of independent film movies regarding them as theartistic expression cinema. While I enjoy the major Hollywood offerings, I will always have a special place in my collection for indie movies. They can tell the stories that Hollywood tends to ignore. They do not depend upon A-list stars or another ancillary aspect of production to tell the story. These films are usually modest in scope and explore themes deeply rooted in the collective emotional condition of humanity. They do not typically induce sensory overload that most of the current blockbusters they can have the audience look inward to their experiences and perceptions of the world relate on a deep level the characters. Even if the subject of the film has minimal overlap with your circumstances, the greatness of the independent film lies in how they can establish such an incredibly strong bond with the audience by nurturing a feeling of empathy. Latest movie I’ve encountered that is about these thoughts and me is ‘Girl Asleep.' It is one of the best films I have seen quite an extended time which may have been largely overlooked by many because it concerns 14-year-old girl as you navigate the treacherous transition from the teenage years. Those prone to dismiss this as just another coming-of-age story my advice is to broaden your outlook and heighten your appreciation for artistry by experiencing this film.

Greta Driscoll (Bethany Whitmore) the 14-year-old girl living in Australia. As the film opens, Greta is heading towards a societal milestone, 15th birthday. Although the natal day celebrant is typically anxious to share such an occasion with their friends with an exuberant gathering, Greta has a different perspective as the day approaches. She is a very shy girl, at that awkward post puberty stage when the lens grew elongate faster than the rest of the body making it impossible teenager feel comfortable in their skin approaching even the best social interaction great trepidation. The first claims the audience has of Greta‘s during one of those frightening times in the life of an adolescent, lunch time during your first day at a new school. As Greta sits alone on the bench sadly holding Tupperware container with the lunch, she sighs as his classmates begin to aggravate into the already determined cliques. An equally awkward boy, Elliott (Harrison Feldman), approaches her with an offer of friendship. Elliott has already been granted an outcast by the school social hierarchy and assigned a designation of a nerd. Elliott goes off to get a couple of donuts; three girls approach Greta, Jade (Maiah Stewardson), and the substantially taller twin sisters Amber (Fiona Dawson) and Sapphire (Grace Dawson). It is evident that Jade is the output of the group as she is the only one that speaks. As she proclaims to Greta that they are taking a liking to her it and decide they will allow her to hang out with them, the trends stand behind their leader holding the same arrogant pose and dismissive look. After the proclamation has is delivered, the three turn almost military precision. During this exchange, Elliott returns the pink frosted doughnut on each index finger with the look of a sheep staring at a pack of wolves, inches towards the bench. It is made clear that their invitation excludes him. There’s an incredible efficiency to the scene that provides volumes of its position with only a little touch of dialogue. The social dynamic serves to establish the foundation for the drama with body language and facial expressions. What is amazing is that the youthful cast exhibits such mastery and their performances. These are not adults trying to play teenagers that insult to the intelligence of the viewer thankfully avoided.

Greta’s parents, Janet (Amber McMahon) and Conrad (Matthew Whittet) possess the requisite combination of being well-meaning is clueless as to the emotional well-being of their daughter. Realizing that their daughter is painfully shy, they intend to make a 15th birthday party an event that will launch her to the upper tier of the new school’s social circle. To forward this goal, they hand out party invitation to Greta’s entire grade. There’s a subtle motivation behind the actual parents. Greta’s older sister Genevieve (Imogen Archer) has moved far beyond the nascent teen inelegance and into full-blown rebellion mode. First encounter Genevieve she is coming home long after her parents expected. Genevieve’s boyfriend, Stephen (Miles Bessis) remained leaning against his car and gave Greta the vinyl record album that he thinks you like. By this point, the audience is volatile rather that this is not going to be your typical coming-of-age story. There is a strong pension for the surreal infused throughout the entire story. One example of this is a picture on the album cover, depicting a young man smoking a cigarette, moving within the photograph. The very first indication of the wonderfully fanciful nature of this movie is the main title sequence. A boy is standing in the living room painted as to camouflage him against the stone wall. The steps forward turning a card are holding displaying the name of the film.

The embarrassing birthday party is a standard plot device in the coming-of-age story. It is a logical way to gather together teens from various social strata and have them interact. Undoubtedly, if you have seen any of these movies, but most of us have, as soon as you heard the words birthday party, you are certain you precisely how this part of the story will play out. The very first frame depicting this event you will realize how completely wrong, such thoughts have been. The random gyrations standard to this sittibng typically focuses the attention of the audience to the group as a whole.As deployed here the group dance scene forgoes individuality for a choreographed dance number. It features the birthday girl and all of the guests in a dance number only reminiscent of the old television series, ‘Soul Train, one of the very few times you get to see a smile on Greta’s face as she submits a self to the exuberance of the disco dance number. There’s incredible attention to detail imbued in every aspect of this production. Among the most important is the use of costuming. How the characters addressed is always an essential element in setting the stage for the story. Clothing is critical to establish the time and place of the story orienting the audience.

It informed the audience as to the time and location it as well as in the place in society occupied by the character. In yellow school top and red shorts or skirt, all required the characters differentiated only by their bearing. During the party, Greta dresses in an innocent print dress with a ribbon belt, in a look directly from an American junior dance circa 1950. Elliot reinforces this with his powder blue tuxedo making the pair stand out from the more usual teenage garb wore by the majority of the guests. In stark contrast, Jade, and her identical entourage are decked out in the same blue dresses, emphasizing how completely Jade controls the sisters. Janet wears far too young for her age sporting the same blue eye shadow worn by the mean girls as Conrad always clad in ill-fitting short pants fades into the sea of other students. The appearance reinforces the camouflaged boy at the beginning of the movie of a young girl wearing a blue leotard delivering a message to Greta. That precedes a segment of the story which takes place in a variation of an enchanted forest.

This is the freshman outing for the director, Rosemary Myers, and the first screenplay for a former actor, Matthew Whittet. In the honored tradition of the independent film, Mr. Whittet also has an acting credit as the father. I have spent so many decades entranced by movies still remaining amazed how anyone can produce such a cohesive and compelling story as seen here. The use of the camera achieved with the collaboration with the cinematographer, Andrew Commis, is brilliant. There is not a single frame that doesn’t contribute to moving the story forward. So many mainstream filmmakers are unable to attain this level of achievement after decades of plying their craft. There is a fundamental understanding of the principle characters and their reaction to the circumstances that confers such a new feel to the movie that I watched several times just for the sheer enjoyment of the experience. They found a rare treat with Ms. Whitmore who expresses her character mostly through her soulful eyes that ideally reveal a young girl facing the next chapter of her life with uncertainty and excitement.

As mention, there is a definite reliance on the surrealistic imagery used to tell this story. The visual impact of the film combined with the most unorthodox use of the Academy aspect ratio, 4:3 that places Greta and her story in a box. Strengthening the visual aspect is the repeated use of shots where Greta is standing still facing the camera. It leaves the viewer with the notion that the story is not so much happening with Greta but rather to her. She is a voyeur in her life, drifting, able to make only slight changes in the course. The general feel of the film is unpolished, Greta’s usual drab expressions contrasted with bright primary colors. By bringing the audience into the story by means, the camera offers the viewers a great seat to witness the personal transmogrification of a young girl into a teenager. If the filmmaker had polished the movie in post-production, it would have stripped away its honesty, completely disintegrating the integrity it established and so wonderfully maintain in the depiction of the characters, especially Greta.

Posted 02/12/2017

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