“Girl Asleep” (2015)
Greta (Bethany Whitmore) is a shy, slightly strange girl, who would rather not grow up. She is about to go to her new middle school, but first she must put up with her wine drinking mother (Amber McMahon), her joke telling father (Matthew Whittet) and her older sister (Imogen Archer) with an attitude. Combine all that family drama with her sister’s too cool musician boyfriend (Eamon Farren) and woods behind her house that she is convinced is haunted, make Greta a very sensitive and nervous girl. She is only comforted by her music box, making origami cranes at a rapid pace and looks at pictures of a Scandinavian woman warrior from the past.
Greta’s fears are confirmed when she goes to her middle school for the first time. She is sitting alone at recess, and kids play all sorts of games around her. Her day gets worse as a girl just comes and takes her origami crane, and everyone else seems to ignore her. Her day suddenly gets better when Elliott (Harrison Feldman) sits down on the bench beside her. He is determined to be her friend, and she slowly warms up to the sweet but slightly awkward Elliott. Just as the friendship starts to bloom (Elliott has gone off to get the two of them donuts). Greta is confronted by three similarly stylishly dressed girls. You can tell right away that they mean nothing good for Greta, which terrifies her. They entice Greta into leaving Elliot on the schoolyard, taking her into the girl’s bathroom and asking her very personal questions. They mockingly ask Greta about her kissing prowess, and if she is interested in any boys.
She makes a hasty retreat and after school hooks back up with Elliot to go to her house. Elliot’s parents are thrilled that she has made a friend, although her sister seems to want just to terrorize Elliot, who good naturally laughs off the attempts. To her dismay, Elliot accepts her mother’s invitation for dinner. Greta goes to school the next day to discover to her horror that her mother has invited all her classmates to Greta’s fifteenth birthday party. It’s a party that will change Greta’s life, whether she is up for it or not.
“Girl Asleep” is part “Adventure Time,” part “Napoleon Dynamite,” and part “Where the Wild Things Are.” Writer Mathew Whittet (based on his play of the same name) and director Rosemary Myers, have imagined a very creative and whimsical look for this film reminding me of Wes Anderson and Monty Python movies. There is so much going on in the background on the schoolyard when Greta first meets Elliot you just don’t want the scene to end. Visual touches, like a wall decoration that tells us about a leap of time or a coffee mug significantly adds to the tone of the film. Adding to the look and the feel of the movie are some incredible small musical numbers, reminiscent of the Disney made for TV movies, which are a joy to watch. The unique look of the film is aided by the crisp lighting of director of photography Andrew Commis, who uses the 4.3 symmetrical framing to his full advantage. The feel of the movie is also helped by production and costume designer Jonathon Oxlade, who creates some incredible creatures for Greta’s dream and fantasy sequences.
The film wouldn’t be as enjoyable as it is without the brilliant and subtle performance of Bethany Whitmore. She is perfect as the awkward, nervous Greta, who must learn to stand up for herself and take on life’s challenges head on. She lights up the screen in each scene she is in and has great chemistry with Harrison Feldman, playing Elliott, the boy with the heart the size of Australia. Their scenes together are some of the best of the film, providing warmth to the movie.
I loved this quickly little film (which, by the way, is only a fast and furious 77 minutes long), the way it delves into the life and dreams of a girl who is going on a journey of growth and adventure. Go on this strange adventure with Greta because you won’t be disappointed, but you just might have to do a dance number if you decide to stay. My Rating: Full Price
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
The film is playing in Atlanta exclusively at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema