The Girl in the Book

A character study in the purest sense of the term.
★★★
Movie Review #1,033

girl_in_the_book_ver2

Freestyle Releasing
Drama
1 hour, 26 minutes
Not Rated
Released December 11, 2015
Directed by Marya Cohn
Writer: Marya Cohn
Starring Emily VanCamp, Michael Nyqvist, Ana Mulvoy-Ten, and David Call

“The Girl in the Book” is a character study in the absolute purest sense of the term. We start off knowing not a thing about the lead character, and we can expect that, by the end, we’ll have known everything. We just don’t assume so immediately that “everything” includes everything that we do want to know, as well as everything that we don’t.

The cast here is hit and miss. Michael Nyqvist is a definite hit. In fact, his performance–understated, strange, and subtle–is one of the most excellent deliveries by anybody all year. Emily VanCamp and David Call, while not quite so outstanding, also deliver solidly and make a likable screen pair. Those commendable performances, though, are counterbalanced by wooden performances among the supporting cast. The main offender here is Ana Mulvoy-Ten, who plays a younger version of VanCamp. Sure, they sound alike, but we can’t seem to take Mulvoy-Ten seriously. She spends too much effort forcing every “like” and “totally” into her caricatured portrayal of the character, and not enough doing any actual acting. This isn’t the only wooden performance here; for better or for worse, it’s quite likely the only one you will remember.

Despite having almost nothing to do with filmmaking since she directed a student film in 1994, you can tell writer-director Marya Cohn knows her way around, so to speak. Her screenplay is natural with its dialogue and intricate in developing its characters. You can tell she knows how to capture the reality she is trying to depict, and she does so in a way that is every bit as dark as it is intriguing. Semi-autobiographical to Cohn, the story focuses on the Alice (VanCamp), a 29-year-old editor whose haunted past is catching up with her more than ever before. She’s given up her dream of writing and has grown to distrust men, due to her troubling experiences with Milan Daneker (Nyqvist). I won’t reveal any specifics, but let’s just say this film grows extremely unsettling. From almost any angle, “The Girl in the Book” feels a lot more like a Lifetime movie than the Kickstarter-funded indie that it is. The difference is that very few Lifetime movies are actually this gripping.

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