William L. Teckmyer III
The Girl signage
The Girl is more about a 9-year-old that's just short of being a young woman than it is about a 9-year-old girl being a 9-year-old girl. Like I said, there's an element of Home Alone wreaking domestic violence on My Girl in this, but it's grittier and more personal than either - that's probably where the Swedish comes into play. It's more about a general condition of humanity than it is about the actual girl.
A girl is left behind by her family as they go on a relief mission to Africa (i.e. childhood abandonment complex in the making). She is entrusted to the care of her aunt - a selfish young woman, more concerned about alcohol and finding acceptance than she is about caring for the girl (i.e. Freudian dismissal of childhood in exchange for premature adulthood in the making). In a complete act of stupidity - one of the unrealistic points that's hard to get around in this film - the aunt leaves on an extended vacation with her lover (i.e. questions of self-worth from repeated abandonment in the making).
Left to her own devices and to fend for herself in the intervening days and weeks, she must care for her physical well-being as an adult. But she still maintains the childlike need to play and also to be accepted by her friends. She lets the older girls have sway over her actions, though she only grudgingly accepts their dominance - at least someone older than her is giving her direction. And just like her dysfunctional aunt's hangups, she eventually learns not to entertain their wiles and embraces the friendship she has with a boy deemed a social outcast by the two older girls.
If anything, in the end, this character piece is mostly about the resilience of youth. The girl and boy are both surrounded by adults with varying degrees of Jerry-Springer-esque dysfunction - adults who are not malleable, beaten into the static forms they are by life's experiences. They both come through fear, frustration and betrayal, learning happiness rather than bitterness.
Despite some of the more fantastical pills the film gives you to swallow, and despite its borrowed content, the film is enjoyable. It is as sloooooow mooooooving as they come, but not uneventful. Uncomfortable at times, it keeps viewers engaged though the plot plods along.
This film: B-