"It’s nice to see a film set in Scotland about dreamy, sonic youths starting a band"
It’s nice to see a film set in Scotland about dreamy, sonic youths starting a band, rather than the country’s usually gritty scenarios. “God Help the Girl” is written and directed by Stuart Murdoch of Glasgow based indie pop band Belle and Sebastian. So I expected it to be sweet, whimsical and emotional, but I think the film got a bit too carried away by the beauty of its lead actress and ended up being quite a shallow and glamourised depiction of heavy subjects such as anorexia, depression and suicide attempts.
We first meet Eve (Emily Browning) alone in bed listening to the radio. She is seemingly another emo teenager, shielding herself from the world with the barrier of a pair of headphones and the latest tracks. But it turns out that her troubles are more severe than that, and she’s been institutionalised for anorexia and depression.
She has only one thing that motivates her: writing songs. So when she is let out of the cuckoo's nest for the summer she takes those first stumbling steps towards her dream of becoming an artist. She forms a band with James (Olly Alexander) and Cass (Hannah Murray), writes songs, performs and sends her tape to the radio station. The film follows the triumphs of her talent and good looks as well as her mental health setbacks.
The film is very musical, with plenty of performances and songs here and there. The project has released an album and an EP. But it’s also a story about friendship and growing up, teenage hormones and flirting.
It doubles as a commercial for the fashion of Beyond Retro and you can tell from the knee high socks and school uniforms that one of the producers was previously involved in Wes Anderson films.
I didn’t like the way it made a suicide attempt look sexy, with cosy lighting, punchy music and a black laced bra. Depression isn’t an accessory that goes well with eye liner and pouting; it’s a painful mental condition. The camera often lingered on Eve as if infatuated, without adding much to the story.
Few films make me want to cleanse my spirit with a documentary about children in war torn Syria as an antidote to the navel gazing, shallow depiction of relationships and suffering, as this film did. But I think Stuart Murdoch, is used to people taking sides about his artistic output. Some will disregard his work as cheesy, but some will also cry and adore him for it and I hope God Help the Girl reaches that tender audience it was made for.