Film Review: How To Build A Girl

SNACK at The Glasgow Film Festival 2020

How to Build a Girl

Closing out this year’s festival was this passionate adaptation of Caitlin Moran’s celebrated 2014 semi-autobiographical novel.

Beanie Feldstein puts in a blinding performance (tricky accent included) as excitable and talented 16-year-old Johanna who dreams of escaping her humdrum working class life in the outskirts of Wolverhampton. Desperate to make her mark on the world, she answers an advert to be a journalist at a hip London music magazine where she eventually finds her alter ego niche as passionately-mean rock critic, Dolly Wilde.

In the crowded coming-of-age story market, director Coky Giedroyc, using a screenplay by Moran herself, carves a distinctive path with a fun and creative film that finds new ways to tap into the experience of growing up; how everything can feel exciting and terrifying and alienating all at once. There’s also a lovely recurring visual throughout of Johanna’s heroes, like Cleopatra and Little Women’s Jo March coming to life on her bedroom wall to give advice. Not only does it work as a hugely likeable story of growing up and find your own way, it also manages to keenly explore class divisions and how difficult it is for someone to break into a field of work if they don’t have the right background. Feldstein is brilliantly supported by the likes of Paddy Considine as her ageing musician father, still chasing success he never had, and Alfie Allen as singer John Kite who gets more than he bargained for when he decides to be open and honest during her interview. The growth of her manufactured alter ago within her chosen career path has hurt those kinds of people who really matter to her. This speaks to the youthful idea of us not quite understanding what effect our words and actions can have on others. Ultimately this is an empowering, attention-grabbing film with lots to say and a really engaging way of putting it.

How to Build a Girl is released on July 3rd.

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