Girl Asleep

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgas..., Common Sense Media
Girl Asleep Movie Poster Image
Quirky coming-of-age fantasy has cursing, sex.
  • NR
  • 2016
  • 77 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Everyone has to find his or her own path to follow. Change is OK once you learn to accept and understand it.

 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Greta is a quiet teenager, still clinging to the comforts and certainties of being a little girl while struggling with social and sexual pressures brought on by looming adulthood. She isn't yet sufficiently sure of herself to be able to say no to kids at school or her pushy parents, but after a revealing dream, she seems to find her own voice.

Violence

The sounds of growling dogs chase a girl through the woods in a nightmare. A girl runs, although she does not know from what. Mean girls play an insulting song they wrote about Greta and humiliate her. Greta throws harsh insults at her best friend, but later apologizes.  

Sex

A young man comes on to a 15-year-old girl but she turns him down. A 15-year-old tells his best friend he wants something "more" and she turns him down harshly, but later apologizes. A teenage girl and boy make out in a car as they are about to drop a 14-year-old off at school, with a teacher looking on. A boy is accused of being gay. He replies that being gay is fine, so the description shouldn't be used as an insult. Nevertheless, he declares that he is, in fact, not gay.

 

Language

"F--k," "s--t," "bitch," "crap," "balls," "testicles," "merde," and "homo."

 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink wine. Adults and teenagers smoke cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Girl Asleep is a 2016 Australian comic fantasy about the challenging and confusing transition from childhood to adolescence and adulthood. Friendships, peer pressure, bullies, burgeoning sexual desire, and other difficult issues are addressed as a shy girl almost unwillingly turns 15. When she falls asleep during her birthday party, her anxieties work themselves out in an Alice in Wonderland dreamscape of strange creatures, mortal threats, sexual opportunities, and regressions to her childhood. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," and "bitch." Teenagers make out and a fantasy adult comes on to the protagonist, but she turns him down. Adults drink wine. Adults and teenagers smoke cigarettes. 

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What's the story?

At 14, the heroine of GIRL ASLEEP. Greta (Bethany Whitmore), is struggling at a new school. She's immediately targeted by passive-aggressive mean-girl triplets, whose words are friendly but whose actions are threatening. She's also befriended by Elliot (Harrison Feldman), an oddball who is reassuringly comfortable in his skin. Her overly-protective parents compound Greta's normal adolescent anxiety by fretting about her need to come out of her shell. They force an unwanted 15th birthday party on her, push her into a pink dress, and paint makeup on her face.  At the party, filled with dancing teenagers she doesn't know, the triplets verbally attack her and Elliot pledges his love for her, all of which sends her into a nightmarish nap revolving around the recovery of a prized music box from her childhood. By the time she wakes up, she seems to have a better idea of who she wants to be.
 

Is it any good?

Director Rosemary Myers and writer Matthew Whittet throw elements from Alice in Wonderland and Beetlejuice at the screen and seem to hope that what sticks will make some kind of sense. Girl Asleep goes out of its way to be cute, with actors in Viking costumes, chicken outfits, and slimy ghoulish get-ups. It's as if such silliness might make transiting from childhood to adulthood easier to handle for both teenagers and audiences. You want to root for Greta but something as simple as understanding what kind of person she is remains unknowable based on the information the movie provides. At first Greta seems shy, awkward, and unhappy, someone who slouches along and can't walk away from witch-like classmates who clearly are out to get her. Then she inexplicably transforms -- at the sound of birthday party music -- into a wickedly expert line dancer. After the triplets are devastatingly mean to her, she runs from them and is inexplicably devastatingly mean to Elliott, the one person who has treated her well. How? Why? Up to that point the dilemma was whether she was clinging to little-girlhood or stepping into adulthood, not whether she was undergoing a personality transplant. The movie is stylized and arch, complete with colorful impish characters emerging from the woods whenever Greta plays her music box, but it takes a long time for the different threads of fantasy and reality to come together. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the difficulties of meeting the challenges of puberty and the years after. How do you think parents can help kids as they go through the physical and emotional changes that come in adolescence? How does Girl Asleep address puberty?

  • Do you think it helps a teenager to know that hormonal changes in the body can cause mood changes? Does more information about the universality of the changes kids go through help make the changes easier?

  • The movie suggests that Greta sees her father as an enemy who is just making her situation worse, even though she understands that he's just trying to help. Do you think parent-child relations would generally improve if parents and kids took more time to listen to each other? 

Movie details

For kids who love fantasy

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