Film Review: The White Girl

Jenny Suen and Christopher Doyle’s drama The White Girl is a film desperately seeking a narrative. The aimless wandering results in a film which feels double its actual duration.

A teenage girl living in a small Hong Kong fishing village is allergic to the sun. She is ostracised from others in her community. She takes an interest in a newcomer in the village…

Set in a small fishing village, The White Girl focuses on a young girl who fills out of odds in her environment. There are a number of elements at play with the protagonist. She is isolated from others because of her condition. She is also longing to find out more about her absent mother. Finally, she is at odds with her fisherman father.

Whilst all these aspects should make a sympathetic protagonist, the film stalls here. The girl is a little too mopey for the audience to really get behind her. Furthermore, her storyline pretty much stalls in a cycle of daydreaming and unhappiness. She is intrigued by the new arrival, but their interactions do not constitute much.

Writer-directors Jenny Suen and Christopher Doyle do not seem to have a clear journey set out for their film. The White Girl ambles along saying very little. In the beginning, it seems as if there will be a subplot. However this is all but forgotten about until the final twenty minutes. When it is revived, it fails to ignite interest or momentum. It feels as if the film has been edited heavily to fit the jarring climax in.

The White Girl is a story about a girl and a place, but neither of these elements are dealt with satisfactorily. The dialogue is incredibly stilted at times. Furthermore, the protagonist is the only character with any depth. Despite featuring heavily, Sakamoto is given no backstory and no discernible personality. Some of the film’s framing is admirable. The slow motion and lens effects, however, are not. They are rather distracting and add little to the film’s aesthetic.

Performances in the film are adequate for the most part. There are aspects of The White Girl that could have had promise; the sun allergy, and the changing environment, for example. Sadly the filmmakers fail to capitalise on these things.

The White Girl is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2017.

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