On July 2 Virgil Films & Entertainment will release The Girl, writer/director David Riker’s latest take on illegal immigration on DVD.
The film is currently in the middle of a regional and arthouse theatrical run (it scored wins in its film festival circuit rollout this past year) and as a result comes in with an ARR of 116 days. The box office tally thus far (and growing) is $34,192.
It’s been 15 years since the release of La Ciudad, which earned Riker a basket full of awards and gave him instant credibility as a filmmaker. Quite frankly, we expected to see a steady stream of films from him, but just one screenplay five years ago and that was it … until now.
Ashley (Abbie Cornish — Bright Star, Candy, Sucker Punch, etc.) is the kind of woman that you see in the background. She’s the waitress, the clerk at supermarket … the pole dancer at the adult club in town; the subject of a country song. Attractive, but not a beauty, she has reached the point in her life where men attracted to her are only thinking about drinks and sex … too much baggage for a relationship.
You could call her a loser, but that almost implies that she was good at something. Motherhood isn’t her strong suit as her little boy has become a foster kid; a single mom without custody of her own kid … it is pretty sad stuff.
Filmmaker Riker seems to know this character pretty well. She’s not cardboard, but flesh and blood and for better or worse the focal point of his story. She’s not a bad person, just a human being without skills, much of an education or any sort of track record of accomplishments. You can almost fill in the blanks … high school, relationships, employment, etc.
Family? Her father is a long-haul trucker (Will Patton) and mom, well mom, there is no mom, so when she ends up taking a ride with him down to the Texas/Mexico border she sees a side of him that is completely new to her. There is some easy money to be made smuggling illegals and he’s good at it. This sets her to thinking … that sort of money could solve her custody problems and a whole lot more.
We get Ashley’s backstory in waves and when added to the whole narrative — where writer/director David Riker is taking this — it all comes together when she decides to try her hand at being a coyote. Like we said, she’s not much good at anything, except screwing up.
There is a two-level story here. On the grand scale there is the story of human grief, the struggles to survive and much more, which are all set against the backdrop of cross-border human trafficking … it’s not pretty.
And then there is the equally important human drama of Ashley, a screw-up of a young woman, who is certain to end up as someone’s “bitch” in prison. How many stupid mistakes is one person allowed to make?
Riker kicks it into high gear when Ashley finds herself caring for a young girl named Rosa (Maritza Santiago Hernandez) when her first attempt at being a coyote ends disastrously. She could dump her and run (that’s her father’s advice), but instead she does something completely unexpected.
For The Girl to work, you have to buy into Ashley’s transformation; her redemption. And Riker, as a filmmaker and storyteller, accomplishes that in spades. By story’s end you are rooting for the young woman … even while everything that got her to that point is completely wrong.
Bonus features include the video diary from Abbie Cornish title “Through My Eyes.”
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