God Help the Girl is a musical project created by Stuart Murdoch of the much beloved band Belle and Sebastian. An idea spawned during the making of their 2004 album 'Dear Catastrophe Waitress', it was further developed through work with other artists including Catherine Ireton. There have been several musical releases and now a movie. The film God Help the Girl was released in 2014 at Sundance and is currently available to view on UK Netflix.
The story is about the moment that some of us have when we are very young, perched on the precipice of adulthood and are figuring out just what it is we want to do with our lives. While the film is a slightly surrealist musical (in the grand tradition of musicals) and relishes in an Instagram filtered version of Glasgow full of inexplicably stylish and intellectually gifted artistic young people - most of who are not actually from Glasgow - and who do cool jobs in a city of endless summer, it does touch on some darker themes. Anorexia, drug abuse, and loneliness belong to the bones of the story.
Coming back to the thing about people not being from Glasgow (or Scotland for that matter) - there are a handful of Scottish characters but they are all ancillary, our main characters are Australian, English and (the big) Swiss-German. When I realised this I'll admit I thought I'd be annoyed by the whole movie. But, I quickly realised Glasgow the city was essentially a character itself and really the story had clearly been written so you could kind of imagine it being any European city where young people are trying to find themselves.
Yes it's extremely twee, yes it's selective, but the music is charming, the leads engaging, and story relatable enough if you've ever realised you had a calling or fell a bit in love with someone extremely talented for a summer. I'm not a musician, but I recognise the feelings of trying to figure yourself out, realising what your passion is and struggling to connect with other people. Also I think it's near impossible to watch Emily Browning (our protagonist Eve) without becoming smitten. I have a massive crush on her. Those cheekbones! Those shy glances! She may have been a bit too beautiful and talented for me to fully relate with, but she was very watchable. I also think Browning handles the balance between the magical world of breaking into song and dance with a few real moments of anguish fairly well.
One aspect I particularly loved was the relationship between Cassie (Murray) and Eve. It's just refreshing to see a friendship between two female characters on screen portrayed in a pretty honest and genuinely straight forward way. Also shout out to a brilliant cameo by Josie Long who stokes fire in the hearts of her team mates by describing a rival football team as 'just children, beautiful children and they don't stand a chance because we're mental, do you understand?'
There's clearly an appreciation from the movie-makers of film's like Gregory's Girl and Local Hero, but it lacks the realism and total charm that Scottish characters bring to stories set in their home turf. To be fair, nothing is ever going to take on Gregory's Girl and come out on top. The melding of song, dance and drama is well handled and very pretty to watch.
If you are a fan of Belle & Sebastian you will love the music in this film, and if you think Glasgow is pure dead gorgeous then it's worth a wee swatch. Also if you like great fashion and whimsical romance stories where the biggest romance is between a songwriter and her songs.