Girl Asleep: High School Horrors

Girl Asleep is an Australian film directed by Rosemary Meyers and written by Matthew Whittet, based upon a play by the same writer. It is a portrayal of adolescence set during the 1970s, allowing dance sequences that verge on excessive.

Please do not get me wrong, there were elements of this film that I truly loved. However, this film is separated into two parts, the latter I felt was somewhat inconsistent with the tone of the first.

This is how I would describe the visual and narrative tones; the first half of this film follows Greta (Bethany Whitmore) through her experiences at a new high school, her family, and the mess when the two collide. It’s somewhat humorous, but is a starkly accurate depiction of the trepidation of high school and adolescence. It’s like Napoleon Dynamite and any Wes Anderson movie had a baby and she was a girl.
Which then takes me to the second half. And I must stress how confused I was by this change of tone, from a comedy to an abject horror movie, the likes of which I can only compare to The Babadook. Although I was totally aware of the fact that Greta was asleep (like the title – I get it), I was too invested and interested in the previous narrative to get into a new one in a dream sequence. It became clear only at the end of the sequence what it was for, at which point, I must admit, I maybe shed a small tear.

The film really grasps with the concept of what happens to the child-self when the adolescent takes its place. Only as I am writing this does the film really gel for me, because adolescence is truly a horror movie. Greta makes the choice to embrace her child-self so that, resonant with the adolescent experience, that part of her is not killed off, which perhaps happens to us all.

Additionally, this forces us to question the two contrasting tones that makes it unclear which half is more like a horror movie. It provoked a reflection on my own horrific experiences in high school, making me realise that I would rather reside in that horror landscape than go through adolescence again. It also touched me that Greta is constantly folding paper cranes, something that I did for years.

The most compelling elements of Girl Asleep come from the direction and visual language. Some of the imagery is astounding with its use of colour, framing and symmetry. This could have been a silent film and I would have still understood the narrative. Saying that, the dialogue in this film was very ordinary and distracting, which did take me out of the story many times. That and a bizarre “love” scene that could have been taken out of the film completely.

It must also be mentioned that the young cast of Girl Asleep is great. They have the tricky task of holding together this movie, which they accomplish with flying colours.

Although I perhaps did not enjoy watching much of this movie, I am conflicted with my fondness for it upon writing about it. I think I will try watching again with ear-plugs (sans dialogue).

★★★1/2


This review is also featured on Pop Culture-y

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I am a media critic currently working and studying in Melbourne, Australia.

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