Closing this year’s Frightfest in London, this revenge-thriller hits most of the right notes, largely due to an excellent central performance by Sarah Bolger.
Synopsis: Bolger plays Sarah, a widow whose husband’s murder is the subject of rumour and speculation in the community, while the police take no action. In addition to trying to deal with her own grief, Sarah is also trying to discover why her young son refuses to speak and is experiencing a fractured relationship with her mother. Her desperation for answers drives her to increasingly extreme situations.
It is possibly down to the fact that British gangster material rarely works for me, but some of the scenes focusing on the gang feel a little unconvincing. Edward Hogg’s performance as leader Leo Miller is an interesting one – his lilting delivery sometimes works to sinister effect but also occasionally lapses into silly-voice territory, which is a shame as it does serve to undermine some moments of tension. In some areas the script adds to the slightly off-kilter nature of the performance as some of the lines don’t quite land. The other gang members are given relatively stereotypical roles and so it is difficult for them to do anything very different to standout here. Director Abner Pastoll has said that writer, Ronan Blaney’s script is designed to have both the social realism strand and the gang thriller strand operate separately before colliding and that is definitely achieved here with scenes featuring each side taking a step into the other’s world until the two clash more seriously.
The clear highlight of the film is Bolger, whose character we spend most of our time with. The development of Sarah from a character who has things happen to her into a character who makes things happen is done well. Too many films instantly turn their protagonists into ultra-violent, ultra-skilled superheroes but this manages her transformation in a really believable way and is all the more satisfying for it. Sarah Bolger gives her a sense of vulnerability, but maintains her as a fully-rounded human being who is more than her circumstances.
The tone of the film is supported by an absorbing soundtrack which really holds the viewer in place for the action. It also supports some of the film’s more stylised moments and adds an element of scale and spectacle to what is otherwise a relatively small and intimate film. Director Abner Pastoll uses quick edits back to scenes of violence to emphasise Sarah’s state of mind but doesn’t shy away from showing grisly up-close detail. The rumours around her husband’s death rob her of any closure and the film does well to avoid tackling these rumours until much later on. The usual cliches of using loving flashbacks to establish their relationship are not present here and so the viewer has to build their idea of their life and his death on the basis of other character’s observations.
Overall, A Good Woman is Hard to Find boasts an amazing central performance supported by ample technical skill, character building and solid storytelling. If you like female-led revenge thrillers, this is definitely one to add to the watch-list.
My rating: 4/5 stars – ****/*****