Welcome To Sundance: God Help the Girl
Cute, adorable, nostalgic; all of these words come to mind when describing Stuart Murdoch’s debut film, God Help the Girl. It’s the kind of movie you want to put your arms around and squeeze like a teddy bear because it’s so cute. God Help the Girl brings you back to that summer after high school graduation, when nothing matters and your head is full of dreams. The summer when you went on adventures with your best friends and the real world seemed a million miles away. Except our summers weren’t set to the sounds of the Scottish indie band Belle and Sebastian.
Murdoch, the lead singer of Belle and Sebastian, came up with the idea for the musical back in 2003, when he started working on a song that came to him during a morning run. He ended up releasing an album in 2009 titled “God Help the Girl” which served as an inspiration for the feature film.
The film opens with Eve (played by Suckerpunch star Emily Browning), a beautiful yet troubled girl, sneaking out of a psychiatric ward to go see a band play in a Glasgow club. It’s here we are introduced to Anton (French actor Pierre Boulanger), the dreamy bad boy character we all know, who is the Swiss-German lead singer of a screamo band, Wobbly Legged Rats. Anton flits in and out of Eve’s summer, but James (played by Olly Alexander, the talented lead singer of the British band Years and Years), a skinny soft-spoken singer-songwriter, rescues a lost-looking Eve and gives her a place to stay. Together, they realize their true musical potential and create that immortal summer we all miss.
After picking up Cass (played by Game of Thrones actress Hannah Murray), a young wealthy girl yet to be affected by the harshness of the real world, the trio takes Glasgow by storm, spending their afternoons on exciting day-trips, whether canoeing through canals or gazing over the city from rooftops.
God Help the Girl is not one of those jarring musicals where characters burst into song out of the blue, prompting audiences to roll their eyes and think “Oh great, not again.” Murdoch seamlessly incorporates his melodies into the film, whether it’s one of Cass’s music lessons or one of Eve and James’ songwriting sessions. The characters’ songwriting even mirrors that of Belle and Sebastian; Eve suggests Cass use a play-by-play of her day as lyrical inspiration.
Browning and Murray’s wardrobe for the film is chic yet precious, mirroring the light-hearted breeziness of the charming plot and delicate narrative formed by Murdoch’s songs. Eve displays a girly punk outfit on her forbidden escape to the Glasgow music club, but wears fashionable sundresses and beanies while traipsing through the city with the other two musketeers. Cass’s appetite for life is reflected in her style, which features more bold prints and jewelry as she dresses to Murray’s long lanky form. The outfits are exactly what you would want to wear while popping in and out of thrift shops and record stores.
While God Help the Girl is a carefree and sprightly indie flick, the band dynamics and personal issues of the leading characters still cast a spell over you and pull at your heart strings. If anything, Murdoch’s first foray into film is your favorite summer mix tape turned into a whimsical movie. I dare you to not smile and reminisce after watching God Help the Girl.