Girl Review: a lustrous story of deep bonds between mother and daughter
“We keep to ourselves; we cannot trust anyone; I open the door for nobody.”
This is the vow made between the mother and daughter of Girl.
Director Adura Onashile provides us with a tender narrative as the story unfolds around Grace (Déborah Lukumuena), building a cocoon around herself and daughter Ama (Le’Shantey Bonsu).
This protective bond has to be especially strong as Grace is a cleaner working night shifts, whilst eleven-year-old Ama is left alone at home and often misses time from school.
This bond however, comes under threat as Ama, whilst still devoted to her mother, wants to explore her life for herself. Added to this, Grace has her own bonds, which threaten to stifle the very life out of her.
Grace is locked in unhealed, childhood trauma. She too is trying to protect the child in her, but she tries to do this from a place of misplaced shame. This drama is an observation about how abandonment and neglect becomes a conduit for isolation, paranoia and fear. In many ways adult Grace is still a girl.
Girl is a drama that takes its time. The gorgeous cinematography (by Tasha Back) reinforces the tenderness between mother and daughter with its lingering shots, rich colours and long takes that builds the first minutes of the story.
The dialogue for the film is careful and considered and there are long pauses between what is spoken. Using a pared down dialogue, Girl instead makes more use of images to tell its story. These tactics serve to underline the intense performance of Déborah Lukumuena as Grace and to emphasise the innocence of Ama played by Le’Shantey Bonsu.
From a British perspective, Girl is a rare inspection of Black mothers and their relationships with their daughters. Some (of the many) that come to mind are mainly from the US. Miss Juneteenth (2020), Precious (2009), Daughters of the Dust (1991) and to good extent, Imitation of Life (1959) to name a few.
Director Adura Onashile’s Girl is a worthy, long-awaited entry to the genre from a UK perspective. We certainly hope it ushers in many more.
Girl release date 24th November 2023