The Girl In The Park
Review by Jack Foley
IT WOULD have been easy to get The Girl In The Park wrong, given the challenging nature of its subject matter.
Yet far from being overly sentimental or even emotionally manipulative, David Aubern’s directorial debut is a poignant tale of loss and recovery that benefits from yet another commanding performance from leading lady Sigourney Weaver… as well as Kate Bosworth in eye-opening support.
Sixteen years after her daughter Maggie disappeared in Central Park, Julia (Weaver) is still struggling to come to terms with her guilt and chooses to live a solitary existence away from the rest of her family.
Her son, Chris (Alessandro Nivola) is trying to reconnect with her in anticipation of his marriage to Celeste (Keri Russell). But he doesn’t seem to be having any luck until, one day, Julia encounters a troubled young woman, Louise (Bosworth), who reminds her of her vanished child.
Reluctantly, Julia takes Louise in and a close bond forms between them, but is – as Julia suspects – Louise her long-lost daughter? And how will her actions be perceived by the rest of her family?
Aubern decided to write the screenplay as a means of exploring how a family might cope not in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy, but sometime after, when distance from it has shaped the people involved even more. He also creates an intriguing element of mystery surrounding Louise’s true identity that should keep audiences guessing for some time into the journey.
Yet the film works best on an intimate level, when exploring family dynamics and playing to the strengths of a uniformly excellent cast.
Weaver, in particular, stands out, expertly balancing quiet despair with slow re-awakening, and an eagerness to recapture the mother-daughter relationship that was cruelly taken from her. But Bosworth, too, is surprisingly good, delivering her most mature performance to date as the difficult Louise… and testing your attitudes with her reckless attitude.
The likes of Nivola, Russell and Elias Koteas, as a sympathetic work colleague, also provide rounded supporting characters who add to the overall sense of authenticity.
The Girl In The Park is therefore an extremely involving experience that refuses to betray the complexities of the emotions on show. It should provide plenty of food for thought and reflection afterwards.
Running time: 109mins
UK DVD Release: February 23, 2009