Girl In The Hallway

***1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Girl In The Hallway
"The noirish animation gives the girl a dramatic presence that is larger than life, small and quiet though she is" | Photo: Courtesy of Fantasia International Film Festival

"He seemed such a nice man," people often say after a neighbour is convicted of murder or armed robbery - yet it's usually clear, on looking just a little bit deeper, that the signs of a violent temperament were there all along. People choose to look the other way. Perhaps that's understandable if they felt threatened, but what about the victims we see every day? We all like to imagine that there are people out there protecting the vulnerable. We like to imagine that somebody would intervene if our children were in danger. The narrator of Valerie Barnhart's animated short knows that isn't always the case.

Frightened in a different way now that his daughter, then just a baby, is growing, he remembers the girl in the hallway, just a little slip of a thing, her waxy red coat standing out against the thick black scrawl of the stairwell where he often saw her. A neighbour's child, though he wasn't sure at first who she belonged to, or if anyone really felt responsible for her at all. She looked pale, hungry, waiting on the stair. In the context of an earlier conversation about fairy tales one can almost imagine her as a threat - at least to hr neighbours' peace of mind.

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What should one do about a child like this? Call child services, perhaps - but what if she's fine, and what if it leads to aggression from her family? Could they do anything anyway? The narrator, assuaged by doubt, hesitates for too long. She's a friendly child but he's afraid of being friendly with her in case somebody gets the wrong idea. So afraid of being perceived as a threat that he won't act to prevent one.

Present only as a voice, a tangled drawing, the narrator is haunted by events all too commonplace. The noirish animation gives the girl a dramatic presence that is larger than life, small and quiet though she is. It impresses her upon the conscience. In reality, girls like her are all too easily overlooked, filtered out before they can even become troubling thoughts.

Barnhart's film, which screened at the Fantasia International Film Festival, is a plea for action. A depressingly familiar, even mundane story takes on a mythic aspect. the image of the girl will remain in your thoughts after the names of many like her have faded.

Reviewed on: 20 Aug 2019
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A man remembers a little girl he used to see in the hallways of his apartment building.

Director: Valerie Barnhart

Year: 2019

Runtime: 10 minutes

Country: Canada


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