Strong feminine protagonists each come at their own measure from project to project. While some are constructed better than others, an inherently worthwhile angle to build a story on, particularly to the benefit of filmmaker Abner Pastoll who ultimately finds his in feature debut, A Good Woman Is Hard To Find.
Actress Sarah Bolger leads the cast in a role that conveys a stoic, reclusive existence that ultimately comes out of its shell, finding redemption in one of the darkest corners of the human psyche. She plays Sarah, a recently widowed and living as a single mom with her two children, son Ben (Rudy Doherty) and daughter Lucy (Macie McCauley). The neighborhood they’re in dredges up nothing short of terrible memories and regret for Sarah’s mother (Jane Brennan) in the wake of rumors regarding the life of Sarah’s now late husband.
Reasonably, life has been more cumbersome for the family, in particularly Ben has been left mute since witnessing his father’s death. To date, even attempts to recon with the officers supposedly in charge with investigating the murder come up with bupkis. Still, despite her visibly fragile state and a creepy supermarket worker ogling her, she remains as intent on living as peaceful a life as possible with her children.
One day, an fugitive drug dealer named Tito (Andrew Simpson) decides to rip off two couriers of a mysterious bag and minutes later, rushes and barges in just behind Sarah as she enters her home. Terrified and focused solely on keeping her children safe in the hours that follow as Tito comes and goes, Sarah is forced to comply for the next five days as Tito sets out to hustle the contents of the bag which turn out to be minibags of stolen cocaine.
Those remaining days are a turning point for Sarah who finds brief reprieve in having a little more cash despite her own reluctance toward Tito’s occupation and the presence of drugs any where near her children. However, the evident consequences of such conditions soon occur, and it all puts Sarah in a more than compromising position with a story that’s about to get more brutal and grim than she’s ever realizes.
Cornered by her circumstances, Sarah undergoes a gradual transformation in the face of a world that has chipped away at her image for so long. It’s a change that formulates her mechanism for dealing with certain inquiries when both the police and social services get involved. Time is running out though, as a ruthless, grammar-obssesed and hammer-happy drug lord named Leo (Edward Hogg) inches closer to finding Tito and the missing bag. Danger is closing in on Sarah, and with it, a gory alternative to offset a moment of truth that could reveal the answers she needs and set her family free.
Pastoll’s rock-and-a-hard-place thriller is a seething, evocative crime tale that all but achieves a lean, smart rebuke of what a “good woman” is. Sarah’s own convictions are the essential north star that help keep her footing as she continues to tread about from person to person – nearly each culminating a raft of bad faith notions about what Sarah has endured.
It’s that template of judgementality that really fuels Sarah’s performance as Sarah, ensuing a transformative and painful, feral evolution into her new, increasingly tougher skin. Pastoll treats that very metamorphosis with an inviting, albeit macabre air that holds up brilliantly in the third act.
Bolger also has her share of jest in the first half with a few key moments that exude some humor, one involving a dildo, and another spotlighting Luci’s perceptiveness one day during a visit to grandma’s house. It is during that visit, moreover, when Sarah’s mother informs her of at least one useful facet about life and being a self-sustaining woman when she tells her “If you want to get anywhere in this life, you have to be a bit of a bitch.”.
Most of the men in the story further foundate what is much ado with the film’s more subtle feminist co-sign which couples with Pastoll’s brilliant use of cynicism. For this, you get a film that simply focuses on delivering a story that largely exudes pain, fear, blinding joy and psychedelic madness and a sense of repose despite its blemishes – those blemishes are fine too.
A Good Woman Is Hard To Find presents a terrifying, mesmerizing new revenge thriller that holds up. Bolger captivates on screen with stellar performances by Ms. Brennan, and by actors Andrew Simpson and Edward Hogg, in addition to young talents Dohetry and McCauley.
Several parts home invasion, other parts horror with a dark, feminist touch and a revenge twist, A Good Woman Is Hard To Find delivers a heroine in Sarah Bolger who is a total keeper.
A GOOD WOMAN IS HARD TO FIND
SARAH BOLGER (Once Upon A Time, Into the Badlands, The Spiderwick Chronicles)
EDWARD HOGG (Taboo, The Program)
ANDREW SIMPSON (Notes On A Scandal, Road Games)
ABNER PASTOLL (Road Games)
JUNYOUNG JANG (The Host)
GUILLAUME BENSKI (Road Games)
JEAN-YVES ROUBIN (Raw)
RONAN BLANEY (Booglaoo And Graham)