ADOLESCENCE can be messy. A painful scramble to discover one’s identity while under the suffocating pressures of social angst and awkward biological changes.
In Rosemary Myers’ 2013 film Girl Asleep, the experience is compared to being lost in a dark forest – and no ordinary forest at that. Rather one that is inhabited by fantasy creatures somewhere between those found in Narnia and the slightly less polished ones in The Might Bosh – such as the unsettling Frozen Women and the repulsive snot-dribbling Abject Man.
It is this discomforting setting that forces our timid protagonist to confront her adolescent fears in the climax of Rosemary Myers’ witty and vivacious debut film.
Based on a play by Matthew Whittet and set in 1970s Australia, Girl Asleep begins with a prolonged formalist image of pastel colours and symmetry as 14-year-old Greta (Bethany Whitmore) sits alone on a bench on her first day at a new school. Along with this Wes Anderson-evoking aesthetic, Myers playfully matches a near-stationary foreground against an unavoidably active background. You cannot help but wonder whether this is a schoolyard version of the Invisible Gorilla Experiment.
This stylised opening sets the tone for enlivening experience. One brimming with surrealist imagery and humour that, dare I say, would sit nicely in Anderson’s catalogue.
The story follows young introvert Greta as she gets caught in a friendship-tug-of-war between geeky and enthusiastic red-head Elliot (Harrison Feldman) and the school’s resident mean girls – led by Jade (the impressive Maiah Stewardson).
Not helping matters, Greta’s embarrassing parents – who want to coax their daughter out of her shell – send out birthday party invites to all of her new classmates. It all culminates in party drama and Greta’s venture into the dark forest to retrieve her cherished childhood music box – an emblem of her disappearing innocence.
Girl Asleep is an Australian coming-of-age tale that beams with quirky joys – from the overt jollification of disco dancing entrances at Greta’s party to the smaller detail of time transitions marked on various objects such as a basketball and a bucket of fried chicken.
This is all carried off with charm and a brilliant cast. Whitmore, who fittingly bears some resemblance to Saoirse Ronan from America’s recent coming-of-age story Lady Bird, is terrific in the lead role capturing Greta’s teen trepidation.
Girl Asleep is a future cult classic. Not a film to sleep on. Watch it when you next have a spare evening.
Girl Asleep is available on Sky Cinema.