'A Good Woman is Hard to Find' Review: A Lean, Mean and Brutal Crime Thriller [FrightFest 2019]
Director Abner Pastoll made a great first impression with his 2015 debut feature Road Games, the bilingual, twisted tale set in France and starring Barbara Crampton. For his sophomore film, Pastoll trades the rural France setting and the Hitchcockian vibes for a Park Chan Wook-esque thriller and the gritty realism of urban Ireland in A Good Woman Is Hard To Find. The result is a kitchen sink drama, a pulpy crime movie, and a bloody revenge tale all held together by one hell of a performance.
Motherhood is often glamorized in Hollywood, with portrayals of superpowered and pristine women who manage to balance work and family without breaking a sweat. But Pastoll and screenwriter Ronan Blaney aren’t interested in that. Like Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody’s Tully, this movie strips away the idealist view of motherhood and shows a more gruesome and difficult, but realistic version of being a mother.
Single mom Sarah (Sarah Bolger) is struggling to make ends meet while also trying to raise her two kids – Lucy (Macie McCauley) and Ben (Rudy Doherty) – in a rough neighborhood infested with drugs. She clearly loves her children more than anything, but life isn’t exactly rose-colored. Ben hasn’t spoken a single word since the day he watched his father get knifed to death outside their door, and when Sarah goes to the police to ask for an update on the case, their only response is “let sleeping dogs lie.” The first act of the movie feels like a horror movie all by itself, even before the blood starts spilling and the action kicks in.
Pastoll and Blaney accentuate the hell that Sarah goes through in her daily life, crafting a grim world that encapsulates the hardships women face all the time. Sarah is constantly being treated as little more than a silly girl who is in way over her head. Her mother keeps criticizing her for marrying her deceased husband in the first place and calling her stupid for having done so and the police are sure she’s just naïve and never realized her husband was a drug dealer. No matter what she does or where she is, Sarah is always being watched and judged. Even the grocer at her local story thinks the only reason she has money is because she’s a prostitute.
Things get worse when a young dealer named Tito (Andrew Simpson) breaks into Sarah’s house. It turns out he just robbed the neighborhood’s grammar-loving, poetry-reciting kingpin, Leo Miller (Edward Hogg), and insists on hiding his stash in Sarah’s home. To sweeten the deal, he offers her a cut of the sales, in exchange for some hospitality. Simpson and Bolger perfectly play the insane situation their characters find themselves in, as Pastoll leans in on the absurdity of the situation. You see, while Sarah is (understandably) terrified, in Tito’s mind this is a win-win situation for both of them, so he expects Sarah to provide beer and snacks as Tito tells her about his day and even gets angry when Sarah doesn’t appreciate how nice this intruder is being. Of course, this arrangement goes from bad to worse when Leo starts looking for the person who robbed him. This forces Sarah to do the unimaginable to protect her family.
Though the casting is on-point overall, it is Sarah who is the focus of the film, and Bolger does absolute wonders with the character. Her performance is nuanced, and she manages to make Sarah’s transformation subtle yet believable. In the beginning of the film, Sarah is beaten, walking around like a ghost of her former self and just trying to stay afloat her many problems, but by the third act, she is confident, self-assured and knows exactly what needs to be done. The film’s climax may be a bit too much and too soon for some. It involves a gag that is equally gruesome as it is hilarious, and it comes as an immensely satisfying and cathartic moment. Though A Good Woman Is Hard To Find is not an action movie, Dan Martin’s makeup effects do a wonderful job when needed, allowing this crime thriller to dip its feet into bloody horror territory. This ominous vibe is aided by the edgy and striking score by Makeup and Vanity Set.
A Good Woman Is Hard To Find is a lean, mean, painfully real crime thriller that will make you cheer for Sarah and her ability to overcome the worst of humanity and come out the other end kicking all sorts of ass.
/Film Rating: 8.5 out of 10
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