All The Real Girls

All The Real Girls


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Rites-of-passage is an expression meaning messing with your life during those green years when temptation opens like a wound. It refers to boys, usually, because girls are smarter when it comes to matters of the heart.

Afterwards, when the rites have been righted and the passage passed, comes the difficult bit. It's called growing up. The teens are torn and tattered, as the twenties stretch ahead like an ocean of uncertainty. "You keep getting older and you don't ever die."

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David Green's film explores the meaning of love in the most inauspicious place, a small town on the edge of decay in what must be a rural area on the dark side of the American dream, Appalachia, North Carolina, that has known an understanding of prosperity in the Fifties, maybe, when staying the same paid off and innovation was treated with suspicion.

At the start, it seems as if this might evolve into a Diner-style buddies evocation from the close harmony of teenage pranks to one night stands and macho sex games. But, no. Noel (Zooey Deschanel) comes back after years at boarding school, still a virgin. "I don't want to go to college," she says. "Writing bad poetry and listening to drum circles." She has the confidence of someone who lost inhibition and understands the strength of feeling, without apology or doubt.

She falls in love with Paul (Paul Schneider), her brother's best friend, who has drifted through meaningless relationships with half the girls in town. He is good looking, but slow witted, as malleable as junket and afraid of commitment. Noel uses words like wands, creating visions beyond his reach. "I had a bad dream," she tells him. "You were a river and you weren't moving. You were frozen and I watched you crying."

She has played trombone for years. It's something she does. He is gentle with her ("She makes me decent"), although inarticulate. She asks for nothing. "You're the first person I want to talk to for more than five minutes. Ever." She is at that age when romance is an idea that grows wings and carries her away. It is not real, like sex is real. It doesn't hurt yet.

Green's script is filled with understanding and honest reflection. There is not a false note and the sweetness you may feel, oozing through the facade of wishfulfillment, turns sour as the truth of things blisters Noel's sensibility. What happens changes the way she feels. "I miss your face," she tells him. "You're not allowed to hate me. I won't allow you. Nobody said we had to be perfect."

The performances reflect the language of the film perfectly. The photography is pristine, snapshots of still lives. The distance between two people is as close as breath stolen in a kiss, unless illicit desire stretches it beyond endurance..

Reviewed on: 31 Jul 2003
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Desperation and first love in the beautiful decay of small town Appalachia.
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Director: David Gordon Green

Writer: David Gordon Green

Starring: Paul Schneider, Zooey Deschanel, Patricia Clarkson, Shea Whigham, Benjamin Mouton, Maurice Compte

Year: 2003

Runtime: 108 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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