VOD film review: A Good Woman Is Hard to Find
Matthew Turner | On 26, Oct 2019
Director: Abner Pastoll
Cast: Sarah Bolger, Edward Hogg, Andrew Simpson, Jane Brennan
Directed by Abner Pastoll (Road Games), this tightly constructed thriller is set on a council estate in Northern Ireland, where recently widowed mother of two Sarah (Sarah Bolger) keeps hitting a brick wall with regards to the local police department’s investigation into her husband’s murder. To make matters worse, her young son (Rudy Doherty) witnessed the killing and hasn’t spoken since.
Sarah’s life takes a further unexpected turn when low-life thug Tito (Andrew Simpson) bursts through her door and forces her to stash some drugs he’s stolen from local gangster Leo Miller (Edward Hogg). Tito initially offers her a cut of the profits, but their arrangement puts Sarah in constant danger, and she’s forced to turn to drastic measures in order to protect her children.
Ronan Blaney’s script expertly fuses the crime and kitchen sink genres, weighting moments like Sarah’s embarrassment at being unable to pay her bill at the supermarket and her conversations with her supercilious mother (Jane Brennan), so that we understand exactly why she’d let herself get drawn into the situation with Leo in the first place. The script plays on Sarah’s mounting frustration with the criminal justice system, all of which feeds into her shocking actions later on. Blaney also deserves points for resisting a potential romance angle, thereby further highlighting Sarah’s fierce sense of independence.
This isn’t the first time Bolger has delivered a knock-out performance in a genre film (her babysitter-from-hell in Emelie is one for the ages), but even by those high standards she’s on magnificent form here; if there were any justice, she’d be in consideration for awards attention. Either way, her performance is utterly riveting, ranging from touching vulnerability and empathy to a steely determination that exposes depths she didn’t know she had.
Bolger’s performance is bolstered by the evident trust Pastoll places in her, knowing, for example, that one particularly horrific scene will be all the more powerful for simply staying in tight close-up on her face.
Hogg is equally good as Leo, keeping the performance just the right side of caricature, but adding in enjoyably quirky (not to say relatable) details, such as an obsession with grammatical correctness. Simpson adds an unpredictable energy that works well, so your (and Sarah’s) perception of him is constantly shifting – one moment, he’s aggressive and threatening, the next, he’s almost childlike.
Pastoll maintains tight control of the tone, so the shifts into outright horror (the film closed FrightFest in 2019) have a visceral impact. He orchestrates a terrific sense of mounting dread, while expertly playing on simple fears, such as the bad guys knowing where you live.
Beautifully shot, superbly acted and smartly directed, this is a cracking little genre film that delivers suspense, thrills and jet-black humour. Don’t miss it.