Review of Girl – Intense Drama of Immigrant Mother and Daughter in Glasgow


The intense and personal story takes place in a small bedroom within a dilapidated council house. Even when the characters step outside, the camera stays close, only capturing glimpses of the surroundings as blurred streaks of light. One could easily mistake it for a different location than Glasgow.

The main characters in this story are Grace, a young mother played by French actor Déborah Lukumuena from the film Divines, and her daughter Ama, who is going through puberty and is played by Le’Shantey Bonsu. Grace and Ama are immigrants from an unspecified country and currently live in a council flat. We discover that Grace had Ama when she was only 14 and is afraid of her daughter leaving the safety of their home. It is hinted, but never explicitly stated, that Ama may have been conceived through rape or incest. Grace becomes troubled when Ama mentions growing hair under her arms, and immediately plucks it out with tweezers. Later, it becomes clear that Ama has no understanding of menstruation when she starts her period.

Fortunately, Ama is fortunate to have a friend around her age, her mischievous classmate Fiona (played by Liana Turner). Fiona kindly clarifies that the start of Ama’s period signifies her ability to have a child and teaches her how to create a makeshift pad using toilet paper. Additionally, Fiona introduces Ama to the world of makeup, dancing, and exploring shopping centers, all of which triggers Grace’s anxiety.

Writer-director Adura Onashile evokes the squelching intimacies between women, be they friends or blood relatives, bonds that can be both thrilling and suffocating. She draws out superb performances from the cast, not just the more experienced Lukumuena, who is terrific, but also the younger actors. On the down side, the writing is less satisfying, a little too hazy and fractured to let the drama build. But the jewel tones of Tasha Back’s cinematography are bewitching, as is the breathy, layered soundtrack by Ré Olunuga.