The indie film “The Girl” reflects a soul-searching journey of a woman named Ashley (played by Abbie Cornish), who lost her child to child protection services years ago. She places the blame on everyone for the loss of her child—the foster parents, the government, the court and even her work. And most of all, she blames her problem with the lack of money in order to get her child back.
With the lack of money, a dead end job and living in a trailer park, her father Tommy (played by Will Patton) surprises her with a visit and they both travel to Mexico. She soon learns that her father smuggles Mexicans across the border for great sums of cash.
In desperation for money and to win her son back, she takes her own operation to smuggle a few Mexican migrants on her own. Her plan goes awry at a river border crossing between Texas and Mexico—leaving a lone separated child, Rosa (played by Maritza Santiago Hernandez) in her care.
Ashley helps to search for Rosa’s missing mother in Nuevo Laredo, but soon discovers she was the cause of Rosa’s separation for her mother. Through this intense journey, Ashley develops a bond with Rosa and eventually takes her home to Oaxaca. In this small little village, Ashley soon realizes the meaning of loss, relationships, responsibilities and home.
“The Girl” is David Riker’s second directorial project after 1998’s La Ciudad (The City). It took Riker over ten years to develop the film after he wanted to pursue a border-themed film. Lots of research was made about the lifestyles on both sides of the border. Riker was very careful to create a more realistic setting for the border towns.
However, it will be incorrect to describe this film as an illegal immigration movie. Although the movie is set in the backdrop of illegal border crossing, it is about an emotional soul-searching struggle of a mother trying to win back her child and helping another child find her family. Riker uses emotional dialogue and depressed poverty settings to display proper reactions from the audience.
Actress Abbie Cornish is the highlight of the film as she shows a terrific range of her acting skills. She demonstrates the intensity of selfishness to emotional bonding for a really good moving performance. The Australian thespian is even more impressive with her near flawless Spanish and Texan accents that are required for the role in this film. She is a future actress to watch.
However, there is one major problem with the film was towards the conclusion for both Ashley and Rosa. With a great tragedy experienced by Ashley and Rosa—it’s unbelievable for the two characters to have such a happy ending and lessons to be learned. It is almost like nobody cared about Rosa’s mother in first place or easily brushed aside. Simply put, the movie tries too hard to give us a feel-good ending.
Nonetheless, “The Girl” is a good film displaying the struggles of people on both sides of the borders. But with so much focus on the emotional journey of Ashley, the movie should’ve been retitled as “The Mother.”
"The Girl" will be in theaters for limited release in New York tomorrow; in Southern California on March 15; and then open in additional markets on March 22.