Leopard print, sumptuous burnt orange, sweet pastel pinks, blues, lilacs, and ultra-marines that make irises sing. Adura Onashile’s debut feature is sensitive in various iterations of the word, possessing an acute emotional tenderness and heightening the senses. Though mother/daughter duo Grace and Ama aren’t materially wealthy, their private kingdom is adorned in rich colour and texture, their small flat in a crumbling high-rise in Glasgow a safe haven from the dangerous world outside, a world shown to be grey, cold and cruel in comparison.
Keeping to themselves is how Grace (Déborah Lukumuena) has so far protected herself and Ama (Le’Shantey Bonsu) from the harsh world. But through Ama’s binoculars, she sees glimpses of colour, of music, that puncture the bleakness and fear that surrounds her. New to Glasgow, Ama befriends a girl, Fiona, in the block opposite, who shows her that flecks of glitter can be found amongst the rubble.
Where Ama is peaking through at the beauty in the world, Grace withdraws. She goes to work, shoulders hunched, head down, counting down until she can return to her sacred shell. Through haunting flashbacks we catch glimpses of the moment when that same curiosity that Ama possesses was taken from her. As Grace passes clubbers in the street we’re treated with a scene of her dancing in a silver dress in her imagination, and we realise that the titular ‘Girl’ is not just Ama, but Grace too, a 24-year-old mother whose girlhood was ripped from her.
Adura’s writing is sparse and poetic, leaving ample breathing space for the painterly cinematography to sing. I wanted to leave with a piece of it in my pocket, to take it out and look at it every so often; a reminder of just how beautiful storytelling can be. Opening and premiering at this year’s Glasgow Film Festival, the film ended with a raucous ovation that Adura said was better than it received at Sundance. Undoubtedly those lucky enough to get tickets before they sold out are still applauding in their heads, I know I am.
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