God Help The Girl’s musical moments are flawless. It’s a pity then, that the plot pales in comparison.
Birthed from the musical project God Help The Girl (created by Belle and Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch), God Help The Girl (the film this time, not the girl group) takes the plot-driven songs created by the ensemble, and fits them into a film landscape where Eve (Emily Browning) tries to pursue a future with her music after leaving a mental hospital.
The musical scenes (which make up much of the film) are dreamy and vivid, with the lyrics of the songs charmingly specific. Subtlety is left behind in favour of whimsical listening – “Bought an Independent to make me look like I got brains, I made a story up in my head if anybody would ask: I’m going to a seminar! I’m a genius, I’m a prodigy, a demon at Maths and Science- I’m up for a prize.”
And this is what’s so good about God Help The Girl. When Eve is singing, she’s confident, active and enthralling. Her eating disorder is honestly addressed, her emotions palpable within the songs (“God help the girl, she needs all the help she can get,”). But when she’s not performing, the film stalls. Plot details are never truly specified, and while that’s fine in songs and music videos where small sections of life and society are exposed and explored for the larger things that exist within them, in film this method and its lack of clarity, is a little more problematic. It’s not clear, from the beginning, what Eve is doing in Scotland, or even that this was, as I later found out, even supposed to be a film set over a Summer.
The music of God Help The Girl is beautiful and rich, and incredibly competent in its storytelling. But the film’s plotting just doesn’t match up.
God Help The Girl’s lead doesn’t want to spend any time outside of her music, and neither do we – but that’s only because the world around her doesn’t work as well as it should. The film is visually quite charming, though (it’s set in modern day Glasgow, but the clothing easily fools you into thinking that it’s much earlier), and the music, it can’t be said enough, works in a way that makes the slippery plot easy to forget.
God Help The Girl is unmissable if you love Belle and Sebastian, or appreciate indie, angsty aesthetics… But if you don’t, then this might seem like a nightmare of sorts.
It’s a summer flick, but it didn’t quite make that fact clear enough.