Film review: God Help The Girl


Eve: "I think you just hate people."
James: "I don't mind people, I just can't stand collective idiocy."

What do you think would come out of a collaboration between Stuart Murdoch – the chief songwriter and lead singer for Belle and Sebastian – and the producers of Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums?

God Help the Girl is a coming-of-age story centred around Eve (Emily Browning). Eve is a catastrophe: at the start of the movie, she runs away from a eating disorders recovery clinic and wanders off into a candy-coloured and sun-dappled Glasgow holding nothing but a backpack and a tape, in which her dreams of becoming a recognised pop singer are enclosed. There she meets James (Olly Alexander), a cynical and awkward young guitarist, and Cass (Hannah Murray), a dreamy and kind of posh who wants to write songs. Three seemingly disparate souls, but brought together by their love for pop music and ideas about the role of musicians and the aspirations of today's songwriters. They are an improbable and yet perfectly put-together trio, just like their outfits, selected by costume designer Denise Coombes.

The dreamy and idyllic Glasgow scenes are marked by an undertone of dark psychological problems addressed to some too lightly, but to me it's sort of refreshing to see a movie with a character whose eating disorder isn't the main protagonist of the story, nor is it her defining characteristic, but something that creeps up at the worst times, unexpected, uninvited, and taking everything with it, but still something she can keep at bay.

God Help the Girl is, essentially, a 2-hour long Belle and Sebastian music video filled with charming little dialogues and sharp but casual retro-chic outfits. For me, it was a bit of a guilty pleasure: yes, the plot was definitely secondary if not non-existent and the characters have little real development; but the thinness of the story and the characters is what makes the movie pull out wings and fly high, dazzling you with a pinch of fairy dust, with a daintiness only possible thanks to Belle and Sebastian's lyricism and Emily Browning's amazing dream waif performance.

It is a movie about aspirations and goals, musical or otherwise.

“If you want to hear your voice floating in the middle of a beautiful tapestry of frequencies, you’re going to need a pop group.”

Needless to say, I was a huge fan of the soundtrack (it does help that I'm rather fond of Belle & Sebastian music), so if you want to take a tiny step into the twee and whimsical world of God Help the Girl, wait no further and let this one hour of delicious arrangements and uplifting choruses:

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