Released: 7th February
Seen: 9th April
Normally when I write these reviews I do an opening paragraph that is intended to set the scene. Either I talk about the original text that inspired the film or I’ll talk about a cinematic trend or, in one case, talk about paint drying to create a subversive joke that can lead into the bulk of the review. Partially this is for context and it’s also done so that if people are scrolling through my page, the opening paragraph might catch their eye and make them want to read more. So, how does someone write an interesting and appropriate opening paragraph for a movie like Horse Girl, a film about a woman who is slowly being overtaken by her serious mental illness that starts as simple little obsessions and culminates in dressing like a peach-ninja and having imaginary sex with the nerdy guy from Criminal Minds? I sat here and tried to think of such an opening and ended up not having any idea, so that’s why you got that tiny bit of information about how I write this… it’s the most interesting thing I could think of because I do not know how on earth I can begin to explore this one.
Horse Girl focusses on Sarah (Alison Brie), a young woman who has a mild horse obsession, a love of crafts and occasionally sleepwalks. She’s very much an introvert, barely even talking to her roommate Nikki (Debby Ryan) on most days and only seemingly having any real relationship with her boss at the Arts and Crafts store. On her birthday, Sarah is introduced to Darren (John Reynolds) who she ends up falling for… also on her birthday, she has a strange dream where she’s in a pure white room with two other people and some otherworldly beings. Soon Sarah becomes obsessed with something new… namely the belief that she’s a clone of her grandmother and from there everything just keeps getting weirder and weirder until we get beyond the weirdness of Peach-Ninja sex.
For a film about mental illness, this film is very coy about actually addressing the obvious issues. It’s clear from the jump that there is something about Sarah that clearly requires her to get some form of a mental health check and the further we go through the story the more it becomes clear that no one’s going to help her, she’s doomed to descend into her own mind no matter where that takes her and the film almost plays it as quirky. It’s quirky that she’s losing large chunks of time and walking around a craft shop naked without knowing why. It’s quirky that she’s threatening people with scissors and being institutionalised. It’s not actually dealing with the issues she clearly has, it just puts them on display and lets us watch as she goes insane with no real meaning behind it.
The descent into the more extreme versions of Sarah’s psychosis is played really well by Alison Brie who manages to actually sell the weirder moments and make it feel real. All the actors involved here are definitely bringing their A-game and embracing the weird tone this film is trying to go for. It’s certainly going for a realistic drama, but with these bursts of weirdness that is meant to give us a peek inside Sarah’s mind. The catch is, all we get is a peek and only on the surface. We’re asked if she’s actually mentally ill or was she actually abducted and instead of diving into that in an interesting manner, we peek and grab the easy answer which is a shame because Alison Brie is more than capable of carrying such a heavy topic on her own.
While everything is very surface level, it’s a very pretty surface that has more than a few very impressive shots that give you a good glimpse inside the mind of our main character. The world created feels real and when they want to start their peek inside what Sarah sees, it’s genuinely well done and creates some fun visual moments (I would also like to run around in a peach coloured ninja outfit, but I fear I would look like I was cosplaying as the Giant Peach) and helps tell the story, what little story there is to tell.
Horse Girl isn’t exactly the most in-depth movie, nor does it try to be. It’s a serviceable 90 minutes watching Alison Brie deliver a great performance while occasionally showing hints at something more serious. It’s engaging enough to give you a good hour and a half of entertainment and right now, that’s a good baseline to work with since we’re all stuck at home and have probably watched Nailed It about 7 times so you need something to break up your viewing habits.