Safety is a foreign language in Adura Onashile’s feature debut, Girl, a brilliant exploration into a mother and daughter’s anxiety about life in a new city. As her daughter Ama (Le’Shantey Bonsu) runs towards the future, Grace’s (Déborah Lukumuena) fears rise to the surface and she must try not to be dragged back to her past in Glasgow Film Festival’s stunning opening gala.
Girl is bathed in colour. It makes a change from the monochrome slab Glasgow is usually portrayed as on film. Instead, it is a vibrant hub of activity. Deep reds, regal purples and shining yellows inform Grace and Ama’s environment.
It feels purposeful. In their flat, they have purple walls and dream of pink kitchens and white cupboards. Everything is within the lines. But through Ama’s binoculars, we see the city’s hues bleed together. It’s a terrifying concept for a mother trying to keep everything together.
“Girl is a beautiful exploration of the fears that dictate our lives and the difficult road you must go down to conquer them.”
It is hard watching Grace slowly come apart at the seams. Physically building walls by taping up the letter box and blocking out windows. She fears any sign of Ama’s approaching adolescence – so she blacks out the light to hinder any growth.
But what could have been a story of toxicity and abuse, instead is one of courage. This is in no small part due to Déborah Lukumuena’s performance as Grace. The César Award-winning actress brings sympathy to a role that could bristle over with hardness in the wrong hands. From the stony exterior Lukumuena builds, to the melting intimacy she shares with her brilliant young co-star, Lukumuena is a wonder.
Onashile succeeds in creating a pace that fools you with gentle beginnings. But, its soft touch will surprise you with its grip in dizzying moments of anxiety and fear.
Girl is a beautiful exploration of the fears that dictate our lives and the difficult road you must go down to conquer them. It is a breathless portrayal of how a mother’s love can easily choke you with intensity.
The Glasgow Film Festival is screening films everyday from March 1- 12. To find out more, visit their website here.
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Featured Image Credit: Glasgow Film Festival