Milk Made Interviews the Cast of "God Help The Girl"
In an extremely un-shocking turn of events, God Help the Girl left the Sundance Film Festival this year with a World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for a Delightful Ensemble Performance, and another strange award entitled How the Director Brought His Own Unique Universe into Cinema. Now these awards may or may not have been made up specifically for this film, but can you blame the film festival jurors? I can’t think of two awards better suited for Murdoch’s whimsical indie musical.
To understand why God Help the Girl received the Delightful Ensemble Performance award, you really only need see the film. The characters are delightful, the singing is delightful, and the film itself is just delightfully delightful all together. We here at Milk Made are more curious about the “How the Director Brought His Own Unique Universe into Cinema” award. Luckily we had the chance to talk to screenwriter, director and lead singer of Belle and Sebastian, Stuart Murdoch (as well as the rest of the God Help the Girl cast) and ask him about it.
“People have different reasons for writing. I write to escape, whether that’s songs or films,” said Murdoch. “I wanted to actually create the summer that I never had when I was a youth. It’s kinda slightly pathetic, and don’t tell anybody that that’s a reason, but you know, if you’re going to be with a project for this long, you might as well write about something that in your head is just terrific."
Murdoch’s dream of a summer can resonate with anyone. Maybe you had that surreal summer, be it backpacking trip through Europe, or falling in love with a summer fling at camp, or maybe like the characters in the film, your best summer was spent at home meeting your best friends for the first time. Whatever the case, God Help the Girl creates that ephemeral summer and highlights the untouchable relationships that you make that can save you from the looming struggles the real world.
“When young folks first meet each other it’s spectacular. When our group [Belle and Sebastian] first got together to do music, the first six months were like having a seven-way romance. It was really powerful stuff, and I wanted to get a little bit of that feeling in the film,” added Murdoch.
After the film’s premiere, Belle and Sebastian performed at the ASCAP Music Café, which gave us the chance to see the full-fledged functioning relationship that has evolved from that budding “seven-way romance.” An adorably nervous Olly Alexander opened for the band, almost bringing the audience to tears with his perfectly pure voice and charming British accent.
Eve, James and Cass (played by Emily Browning, Olly Alexander and Hannah Murray respectively) really do appear to have their own three-way romance in the film, albeit a fairly platonic romance, but they support, love and tease each other the way you would imagine a newly formed group of young creatives might. Each character has such a unique aura; you have to wonder about the inspiration.
Barry Mendel, the producer of God Help the Girl (and of The Royal Tenenbaums), said, “The story in part comes from some of Stuart’s own life experiences. His own story is inside each of the 3 character’s stories. I think oftentimes with first films or first novels, you are revisiting your life to find things to feel, to write about, in a way that’s as heartfelt and true and sincere as you hope.”
Murdoch went on to explain how the role of music fits into this idea. “I think music is absolutely therapeutic. To paraphrase Morrissey, it saved my life several times. As a writer, you don’t know where else can you go if you can’t write or sing. That’s personal. Everybody’s got something; I’ve got music. I put that into Eve, and very much a barometer of her mood is the music.”
The three main characters have such unique and different, yet redeeming qualities, but it’s still possible to imagine them stemming from the emotional history of one person. Eve is passionate, and dances from fragile and delicate to headstrong and glamorous. James is the thoughtful skinny yet feminine boy crushing on Eve, dying to make real meaningful music. Cass seems like least complex character, but in reality, she embodies the underlying idealistic theme of the film: the wonderful dewy-eyed hope of youth and an unfazed confidence in dreams.
“For me it was interesting because my character is slightly younger than the others. She’s 17, so she’s even more kind of naïve,” said Murray on playing Cass. “I think what I found exciting about her was, and that age in general, that complete sense of possibility. And I think my character has so much confidence of youth, that absolutely anything is possible. She’s not encountered anything except that, so its like, ‘Yes, of course we can be in a band, and of course we’re going to be the most brilliant band in the world!’ It’s a really kind of lovely thing to encounter.”
The most enticing and endearing aspect of God Help the Girl is the way it brings you back, no matter your age, to that enchanting period in your life where you see everything as an opportunity. Whether it be an opportunity for success, for happiness, for connections, or just for new experiences, it’s something everyone can relate to.
This summer of love, youth and dreams would not have been complete without the magical setting of Glasgow, so wondrously portrayed by Murdoch. Where else can you canoe through a canal and run through parks, yet have awesome music clubs and adorable vintage record stores to frequent?
“Well, I live in Glasgow. All the good adventures I’ve ever had have been there,” explained Murdoch. “Everything’s shot within a mile of my house actually, because we didn’t have so much money, so we had to keep it sort of quick. When I look at it, it does just look like Glasgow naturally looks, but its kind of the world in which I’ve been living the last 10-20 years. There are a lot of hipsters. They’re walking about in far more outlandish gear than Eve and James are wearing, but I think we did a great job to capture that. It’s a little bit of a love letter. Everyone should love the city they’re in.”