Film Review: The Starling Girl

Film Reviews

The Starling Girl
Director: Laurel Parmet

Bleecker Street
In Theatres: 05.12

In the style of classic Americana, The Starling Girl fits right in with the growing collection of traditional Christian anecdotes of religious trauma. Though it is a story that’s been told before, The Starling Girl stands out from the rest in its impact. Effortless connection with the characters leave you invested in their journey. The careful exposition, subtle revelations through character development and the luscious Kentucky backdrop make for a strong, emotional journey.

The story centers around Jem Starling (Eliza Scanlen), a 17-year-old girl who lives in a fundamentalist Christian community in rural Kentucky. She’s your classic backwoods American girl who attends her church every Sunday and other religious activities throughout the week. She’s also experiencing a sexual awakening that coincides with the arrival of 28-year-old Owen (Lewis Pullman), a man who’s also confronting difficult life choices as his marriage stagnates. 

Jem leans on Owen for emotional support just before their friendship turns physical, and Jem’s life only becomes more complicated when her father falls back into drinking, leaving her mother to pick up the pieces and also treat Jem a bit more stringently than otherwise needed. The complexities of Jem’s life are perfectly balanced in the hands of emerging director Laurel Parmet. Tapping into the raw feelings of what it feels like to be a young girl in a strict family of religious zealots, The Starling Girl hones in on sectarian misogyny; how Christian communities sometimes put the blame on the young girl instead of the responsible male adult.

Carefully subverting the cliches of similar movies such as the drunk father, strict Christian mother and tropes of American Christian communities, Parmet manages to create a real and intimate portrayal of a young girl confronting social anxiety and navigating the intricacies of coming of age in rural Kentucky. It’s a story that spirals and swirls until landing deliberately on a high note, or at least what I interpreted as a high note. The Starling Girl is special, a meticulous story that leaves you cheering Jem on until the very end. The Starling Girl will resonate with anyone who struggles with their overbearing life and feels the need to break free. –PJ

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