Screening at the 2015 Audi Festival of German Films. For festival tickets and session details visit the official website HERE.
What happens when a girl is almost 16, has seen her family fall apart and finds it tough to blend in with peers? It’s a phase that’s easy to imagine. About a Girl is one such coming-of-age drama, narrating the life and struggles of Charleen, a young girl who is so obsessed with death and all things dark that she starts despising the very concept of life.
Directed by Mark Monheim, the film stars Jasna Fritzi Bauer (Charleen) and Heike Makatsch (Sabine), the latter of which might be remembered for her role as Mia from Love Actually or as Dr. Lisa Addison from Resident Evil.
Charleen, seeing her parents get separated, grows up a reserved but rebellious teenager. She idolises Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix and creates a photo album of any dead animal that she happens to see. Needless to say, Charleen is fixated with death. In fact, she even attempts suicide. However, the botched attempt leads to hospitalisation and several resentful sessions with a whimsical therapist. Clearly, Charleen’s life is not pleasant for her. Despite the love and attention from her family and the concern of her best friend Isa (Amelie Plaas-Link), Charleen’s aggression, annoyance with the world and hatred for life refuse to recede.
But, things take a positive turn when a special someone unexpectedly enters her life. Gradually, Charleen starts mellowing down, only to have an unfortunate event bolt her again. Will Charleen ever be able to let go off her dark thoughts and understand that life isn’t as bad as she perceives it to be?
About a Girl starts off well. The story hooks you, keeping you interested in seeing what happens next. It progresses fine, until it reaches a point where things start getting predictable and the film’s faults begin to show.
You can almost tell when there’s something bad about to happen. After a while, Charleen’s obsession with death is driven home a little too hard. The climax, unfortunately, is abrupt and fails to convince on the level it should. It’s a list of detractions that, while not completely detrimental, holds the film back.
Nevertheless, it’s the start of the film coupled with strong performances from all the characters that makes it worth a watch.
Jasna Fritzi Bauer delivers a remarkable Charleen. She rarely smiles, has a near-permanent frown on her face and passes snide remarks without appearing over-confident. It is important to remember that in spite of all her abrasiveness, Charleen has trouble being like the other kids. That little diffidence is always apparent.
Heike delivers yet another commendable character. She plays every bit of the harrowed mother who empathises with her daughter but needs to be strong for her family.
The German feature is interspersed with moments of light humour. The screenplay, also by Monheim, is smooth, credible and in places, and ultimately relatable.
A perennially annoyed teenager is not hard to believe. If only the darkness had been toned down a bit, this film would have been a thorough delight. About a Girl is held together by its actors; it’s their performances that keep the story from falling apart.
THE REEL SCORE: 6/10