One of my favourite sub-genres in modern cinema is the British “kitchen-sink” horror/thriller, a type of film characterised by the depiction of people raised in dysfunctional environments who, after something happens to them, embark on a bleak journey that, often times, leads to extreme violence, gory episodes and disturbing moments.
The latest addition to the “kitchen-sink thriller” is A Good Woman is Hard to Find, which takes place in Northern Ireland’s criminal underbelly. The titular “good woman” is recently widowed, mother of two Sarah (Sarah Bolger, Emelie and The Lazarus Effect): she’s desperate to know who murdered her husband in front of their young son, rendering him mute. Coerced into helping a low-life drug-dealer, she’s forced to go beyond her humanity to protect her children and learn the truth about her husband’s death.
Continue reading and check my final grade below…
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After a bloody and teasing opening sequence, the first act of this film focuses on Sarah, the relationship with her concerned mother and innocent kids (the mute boy and a little girl): immediately, it’s clear how much care was put into the presentation and the characterisation, specifically of the main character. The camera floats and flows to create a genuine and realistic environment, arguably one of the most important features of the genre, where Sarah – perfectly portrayed by Bolger – is shown balancing her grief with the difficulties of being a single mother. Sarah Bolger is truly an underrated actor: she was great as sleazy and mean-spirited Emelie in that 2015 movie; she’s fantastic as a complex and rich character in A Good Woman is Hard to Find, where she truly elevates the whole picture.
Whilst depressing and uncomfortable, the first act doesn’t really show any violence or gore. Those come in from the start of the second act and, from there onwards, A Good Woman is Hard to Find fully commits to be graphic, ultra-violent and, at times, quite hard to watch. The film features hardcore interrogation scenes, brutal fights and unflinching rape attempts, but the genuinely disturbing dialogue among criminals is probably what I consider to be most disturbing about it: the realism behind it truly makes you believe that people like this exist (in fact, they do), which provides an uncomfortable feeling throughout.
A Good Woman is Hard to Find balances the more graphic parts quite well, as sometimes the violence happens off screen but the hints at it make your imagination run wild; other times, the gore is fully on screen and it really isn’t played for entertainment value. In those instances, the practical FX are great and, paired with good lighting and sound-design, provide authenticity to the scene.
This movie, however, suffers mostly from pacing issues. Had it not been for Bolger’s jaw-dropping performance, the build-up would have been largely disinteresting: the set-up takes up 35 minutes of runtime, which is way too long, and it feels rather repetitive. After that, the movie becomes really fast-paced, but there are still moments of dead air that drag it down a bit.
A Good Woman is Hard to Find tries to hide these shortcomings with the use of a hardcore soundtrack which, however, feels exaggerated and comes off as a trick: you notice that this punk-ish music plays when nothing in the movie is happening.
Although most of the performances are great – specifically the criminals’ and Sarah’s – the child actors are severely miscast, especially the young girl, whose delivery is very stilted and off. Sarah’s mom in the movie is, also, extremely unlikeable: unfortunately, her character isn’t developed enough, so the audience doesn’t fully understand where she comes from and, thus, her remarks just sound annoying.
If you like films such as Fish Tank, Eden Lake and Kill List, you should watch A Good Woman is Hard to Find (the movie comes out in cinemas and on digital from October 25th). Even though there are quite a few issues with this movie, violence, performances and a great setting truly make up for those. It’s a crowd-pleasing graphic horror/thriller that fans of the genre shouldn’t miss out.
A Good Woman is Hard to Find 6/10
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