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Directed by Adura Onashile
“I AM breathing the same air as you” whispers Grace poignantly to her eleven-year-old daughter Ama who replies “always”, and in those few words she conveys her deep love for her child and her determination to protect her from harm at all costs. It is just the two of them against the world. This intense bond is what draws you into this slow burning yet tender coming of age drama about such a close mother and daughter who are haunted by trauma and racism in Adura Onashile’s impressive directorial debut feature.
It is inspired in part by the writer-director’s relationship with her own mum. The film follows immigrants Grace (Deborah Lukumuena) and Ama (Le’Shantey Bonsu) who, having escaped from an undisclosed country, are now living confined to their Glasgow flat.
Single mum Grace forbids her daughter to leave their home while she is out working as a cleaner. “We keep to ourselves. We cannot trust anyone!” she hammers home to the child. Left to her own devices Ama observes their neighbours through binoculars, a convention reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. When she spots a fire in one of the flats opposite she raises the alarm, saving lives but breaking her mum’s mantra to maternal fury.
You learn that Grace was just 14 when she had Ama following a rape or assault, so she doesn’t feel safe and at 24 is suffering from PTSD. As Ama makes a new friend (Liana Turner) and is approaching adolescence she becomes curious about the outside world which she wants to explore, while Grace just wants to hide from it as her past comes to terrorise her.
Lukumuena and newcomer Bonsu, in her first ever feature film, give stunning performances in this intimate and claustrophobic yet understated drama in which a look speaks volumes. It is beautifully shot and is underscored by a powerful soundtrack as the camera stays up close and personal on the two of them and their viewpoint.
Girl offers a different perspective on immigrants and their struggles to progress from unseen to seen, and to be accepted in British society. It is a must-see.
Out in cinemas today
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