Fantasia 2019: A GOOD WOMAN IS HARD TO FIND Review – When a Single Mom Gets Even
Starring Sarah Bolger, Edward Hogg, Andrew Simpson, Rudy Doherty
Written by Ronan Blaney
Directed by Abner Pastoll
Sarah (Sarah Bolger) is a good person in a terrible situation. Grieving the murder of her husband and living in a dodgy neighborhood, Sarah struggles to buy food for her two children, one of whom does not speak as a result of the trauma he suffered from witnessing his father’s end. While on the run after stealing drugs from the local crimelord, a drug dealer forcefully uses Sarah’s apartment as a hideout. What starts out as a temporary refuge becomes a prime spot to stash drugs and even hang out. Under the threat of violence and distrusting of the police, Sarah feels like she has no choice but to let this criminal in and out of her home as he pleases. After a dangerous incident involving her son, she knows that the conditions aren’t sustainable. Sometimes a good woman must do bad things.
Beautifully executed, A Good Woman is Hard to Find is difficult to classify in respect to genre. It’s part gritty crime drama and part revenge thriller. It’s not so much a horror film, but it has no shortage of horrific moments. Reminiscent of a European take on South Korean vengeance stories, Director Abner Pastoll rewards genre lovers with a brutal crescendo that is unexpected yet wholly gratifying. Cast in subdued tones, the film presents a color-drained realism only to later contrast it with graphic violence and vibrant hues, paralleling the journey of the protagonist.
At the heart of the story is a grounded performance from Bolger. Horror fans may recognize her as the deeply unsettling babysitter from Emelie. With intensely emotive eyes, Bolger is a nuanced performer who invites you into her private world of hurt via subtle body language and facial expressions. She is the key to this film’s success. The viewer can’t help but empathize with her, as she receives very little support from the world around her; whether that be the justice system, the clerk at the grocery store, or her own mother who pushes her away with judgments. In between all the depressing stuff, we are reminded of Sarah’s humanity when the pressure of outside influences and a hopeless situation are temporarily invisible to her and her children. We want Sarah and her children to succeed.
A Good Woman is Hard to Find rests on the likeability of its main character because it wants to show us what happens when good people are forced into actions outside of legal or ethical boundaries. Living in poverty without access to resources, many are essentially trapped in cycles of behavior that are necessary for survival, but they actually tighten the constraints that bind them. Sarah tries to do everything the right way. Yet, the right way is at odds with what is necessary. It isn’t until Sarah is very literally forced into action that she begins to take agency over her own life, rather than remaining a demure victim of circumstance.
A Good Woman is Hard to Find is simply a good movie. The visual design, music, and performances accompany an engrossing script that feels very real while also serving as wish fulfillment. It may read a bit like a by-the-numbers revenge movie on paper, but it will satisfy you with an identifiable character that delivers one hell of a glorious ending.
Bolstered by an incredible lead performance, A Good Woman is Hard to Find is a thriller with intention. Its violence is rare but highly effective. When the credits roll, you will understand why this film comes with a recommendation.