Horror tends to be a genre that exclusively leans on spectacle and action. From the dramatic bloodletting to the theatrical monsters and the scares they provide, horror is anything but realistic. That’s why we watch it, for the rush and the adrenaline. The terror is in the ‘what if’, what if the world was filled with vampires or blood curses, what if I was pursued by a maniac serial killer looking to wear my face over his?
In that sense, Abner Pastoll’s A Good Woman Is Hard To Find is a strange beast within the genre of horror. It might be more of a thriller, but somehow that seems too tame for a film like this. It’s truly a horrific film, something that deals with the horror of the mundane plausibly, yet succeeds to make it a form of escapism. In the end, the events that A Good Woman Is Hard To Find depicts aren’t that unrealistic, adding a new layer of terror on Pastoll’s film.
A Good Woman Is Hard To Find begins with single mum Sarah (Sarah Bolger), who is struggling to provide for her two children after the traumatic and mysterious death of her husband. Sarah is fiercely independent, but must rely on her mother and struggles to make ends meet, even the simple trip to the supermarket a source for stress for poor Sarah. A low-life drug dealer Tito finds a way into Sarah’s flat by chance and makes himself comfortable, scaring Sarah, but she’s unable to make him leave. Things go horribly and seriously wrong from here.
This is a hard-boiled, tough-as-nails film about a woman who is willing to do anything to protect her children. Sarah is like a mother lion protecting her cubs, but she doesn’t start out this way. At the beginning of the film she is quiet and devastated, lonely. She must transform into a warrior of sorts, the good woman of the title in order to survive in the cold, violent world of Belfast. She might not have much in this world, but she has her children and she will go to extreme lengths to not only protect them but to give them a better world to live in.
Sarah Bolger, who is best known for her role in the low-key horror film Emelie gives what is hopefully a career-changing performance here. Bolger’s performance is equally strong and vulnerable, showcasing Sarah’s transformation in all its glory. Bolger fully sells the narrative and script, even when they’re at their weakest. Her connection with the young actors is palpable and believable and her wide eyes are always filled with emotion, until the film’s last moments which I won’t spoil here.
A Good Woman Is Hard To Find combines the good old British kitchen-sink drama with a neon-coloured nightmare that Sarah must live through. It’s mundane enough to be realistic but stylish enough to be interesting. Pastoll films the action up-close, at times brutally close. The film constantly tip-toes the line between uncomfortable enough and too uncomfortable to bear with its straight and no-nonsense depiction of violence.
A sequence that fully kick-starts the film’s revenge plot is a difficult one to watch. It has traces of domestic violence and watching Sarah try and assure her children everything is fine is chillingly real and familiar. Pastoll films sexual violence with class and taste, never turning the camera away but still forcing the audience to live through the experience with Sarah. The violent scenes never feel gratuitous or exploited, just necessary for the plot to move forward and Sarah to begin her own internal journey.
While there is much good in A Good Woman Is Hard To Find, it’s never quite as exciting as you’d wish. While it has style for days and a great performance from Bolger, it fails to bring anything new to the screen. It’s a story and a character arc we’ve seen multiple times before and despite the heavy use of neon lights, the film ultimately fails to find its own identity in the midst of hundreds of good thrillers.
Dir: Abner Pastoll
Scr: Ronan Blaney
Cast: Sarah Bolger, Edward Hogg, Andrew Simpson
Prd: Guillaume Benski, Junyong Jang
DOP: Richard C. Bell
Music: Matthew Pusti
Run time: 97 min
Signature Entertainment presents A Good Woman is Hard to Find in Cinemas and Digital HD 25th October