Movie Review: The Girl
Austin360.com | Austin American-Statesman
Ashley Colton has a lot of growing up to do.
The single mother is in trouble with Child Protective Services after being arrested for drunken driving while her young son was in the vehicle, and the boy has been placed in a foster home. She lives in a rundown trailer park. And she has a dead-end job that she hates at a big retail store in Texas.
As played by Abbie Cornish, Ashley is a bundle of seething anger, ready to explode in “The Girl,” which was filmed in the Austin area and Mexico. Ashley doesn’t seem to understand that she endangered her son, and she thinks local authorities are unlikely to let her regain custody, mainly because she’s poor.
And then her wayward father (Will Patton) drops by for a visit and proposes that they go party in Nuevo Laredo. It seems that her dad, who drives a truck back and forth across the Mexican border, has come into some money, and he wants to show Ashley a good time — as well as make up for his long absence.
On the trip, Ashley discovers that her dad has made his money by smuggling Mexicans into the States. And then she comes up with the notion that she could do the same thing, make some money and possibly improve her chances of regaining custody of her son. Ashley finds out that the river in Laredo is apparently low, so she decides to round up some immigrants, drive them to the river, tell them to wade across and meet them across the border and drive them to Austin. In addition to several men, a woman and her young daughter are among the immigrants who join with Ashley.
As you might suspect, everything doesn’t go according to plan. The mother disappears, but the young girl makes it across.
The girl’s name is Rosa, and newcomer Maritza Santiago Hernandez plays her with a stubborn vengeance. Rosa blames Ashley for the disastrous crossing, and she demands that Ashley help find her mother.
Writer and director David Riker has explored these themes before, most notably with 1998’s “The City,” which dealt with Hispanic immigrants living in New York. But this time Riker doesn’t stress the struggles of the immigrants as much as he does the plight of an irresponsible mother who suddenly has custody of a child who isn’t her own.
Much of the rest of “The Girl” revolves around Ashley’s effort to reunite the lost child with her mother. And it’s a frustrating journey for both Rosa and Ashley, who are stumped at nearly every turn.
Cornish, who starred in “Seven Psychopaths” and “Limitless,” plays Ashley with a mix of guilt and determination. And the precocious Hernandez brings an equally stubborn quality to Rosa.
Riker, thankfully, doesn’t wrap up “The Girl” with a bow, but he does manage to show the evolution of a woman into a real mother. And that’s no small feat when you start with someone like Ashley Colton.