God Help the Girl

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
God Help the Girl Movie Poster Image
Twee indie musical about art's healing power has charm.
  • NR
  • 2014
  • 111 minutes

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Kids say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Amid heavy themes (eating disorders, mental illness, depression, attempted suicide), the movie's message is that you should follow your dreams and stay true to your art. It's also about figuring out what you want to do "when you grow up."

Positive Role Models & Representations

James is committed to making music and helps Eve get better.

Violence

The main character is in the hospital for an eating disorder and later, after taking too many pills, has to be taken back to the hospital. A drummer and a singer get into a scuffle.

Sex

Some kisses and one bedroom scene that makes it clear that Eve is "shagging" a band's frontman. They're shown in bed together, bare shouldered (him barechested) and kissing. Later she wears just a shirt and panties and kisses a guy, but they don't have sex.

Language

Occasional strong language includes "f--k," "s--t," "bloody," and a few insults.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Young adults of indeterminate age drink at a music club, but it's legal for 18-year-olds to drink in Scotland. A character is hospitalized after taking too many pills.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that God Help the Girl is an indie musical featuring the songs of writer-director Stuart Murdoch, lead singer of popular Scottish pop band Belle & Sebastian, and starring Emily Browning as a teenager who processes her problems through song. The movie's characters deal with some heavy issues: eating disorders, mental illness, depression, attempted suicide, and more. Language isn't frequent but does include a few uses of "f--k" and "s--t" and insult language. The main character sleeps with a good-looking musician (they're shown bare-shouldered in bed together) and kisses another. There's also some drinking, but it's worth remembering that it's legal for 18-year-olds to drink in Scotland, where the movie takes place. Despite the movie's mature themes, the music is alternately wistful and bubbly, and God Help the Girl is ultimately a hopeful story about following your dreams and healing your wounds through art.

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What's the story?

In GOD HELP THE GIRL, the titular girl is Eve (Emily Browning) who's in a Glasgow mental-health facility being treated for depression and anorexia. She copes with her issues by writing and singing songs. After she's released, she moves in to the same flat as new friend James (Olly Alexander), a sensitive singer-songwriter who makes ends meet as a lifeguard and a music instructor. Soon, Eve and James (who's obviously falling in love with Eve) team up with his willowy, posh music student, Cassie (Hannah Murray). During the course of the summer, the trio frolics around Glasgow, making music and enjoying one another's friendship.

Is it any good?

The music is conversational and catchy and adorable, as are the actors. Viewers who can't stand sentimental pop ballads may feel more like Eve's boyfriend, Anton (Pierre Boulanger), the hunky Swiss German frontman of a band making the local rounds. He's into Eve but thinks her music is childish, depressing, and amateurish. But if you're a Belle & Sebastian fan or enjoy musicals, God Help the Girl will be a refreshing alternative to mega-budgeted Broadway adaptations. Mature, artistic teens who themselves are questioning who they are, what they'll do after graduation, and what it means to be an artist will particularly enjoy Murdoch's lovely (and timeless) little musical.

Director Stuart Murdoch, of Belle & Sebastian, wrote all of the film's songs and worked on this labor of love for years, culminating in a successful Kickstarter campaign that helped him finance the movie. He cast it beautifully: Browning has a sweet but surprisingly crisp voice that pairs perfectly with her expressive eyes and her brooding character's moods. She just has to sing, write, and get the music out of her, whereas James (the adorably nerdy Alexander) is more ambitious about creating a sublime pop song that will withstand the test of time. Then there's Cassie (audiences will recognize her as Gilly from Game of Thrones), who just wants to have fun and is enthusiastically game for anything that Eve cooks up for the three of them.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the popularity of unconventional musicals. Why do you think these sorts of musicals appeal to audiences? Do you prefer indie musicals like this one and Once or more produced ones like Chicago and Les Miserables? Why?

  • God Help the Girl isn't a typical romance or even a romance at all; why do you think the filmmaker decided against depicting a predictable romance between the two main characters?

  • Do the characters face their issues realistically? Are they relatable? Do you know anyone who's dealt with similar challenges?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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