Finn’s Girl, directed by Dominique Cardona and Laurie Colbert is out on DVD on Monday 19th January and to kickstart our DVD review section of our blog, we asked Jess McCabe, editor of The F Word – “a leading online magazine dedicated to contemporary UK feminism” to guest review it for us.
Director: Dominique Cardona and Laurie Colbert
USA / 2007 / 88 mins / English
Release Date: 19th January 2009
UK Distributor: Pecadillo Pictures
Cast: Brooke Johnson, Maya Ritter, Yanna McIntosh
DVD Extras: 20 minute excerpt from acclaimed documentary ‘My Feminism’
Finn’s Girl is the story of a family struggling to cope with bereavement, and is probably one of the first films about the experience of parenting as a widowed lesbian mother.
Zelly (Maya Ritter) is 11 years old and acting out, after the death of her mother Nancy. Her surviving mother, Finn (Brooke Johnson), is struggling to connect with and parent Zelly. She has also left behind a career as a researcher to take over the Toronto abortion clinic Nancy set up – a job which brings with it constant death threats and attempts on her life.
While Zelly is crying out for attention, Finn is also grieving – and throwing herself into the clinic, and into bed with her colleague Jamie (Nathalie Toriel). But when that doesn’t work out, she begins a new relationship with Diane (Yanna McIntosh), one of the police officers sent to act as her bodyguard. And there is a major twist at the end, which certainly brings up some interesting questions it’s impossible to talk about without spoiling the film (and may or may-not seem believable or tacked on).
This is the first feature for documentary film-makers Dominique Cardona and Laurie Colbert (My Feminism and Why I Thank God I’m a Lesbian). They’ve packed an awful lot into this film, both in terms of plot and thematic material. It’s also rich in fully-sketched characters. You can tell it was made on a budget – they’ve talked about how the clothes the characters wear are all their own, and the set cost $1,000. Sometimes it does seems like they’ve tried to fit a bit too much into Finn’s Girl – a couple of plot strands seem under-developed. For example, the story line about dodgy research being carried out by Zelly’s sperm-donor father just seems to peter out. But the film is glued together by some fantastic acting, not only on the part of the main characters, but the whole cast.
The heart of the film is clearly Zelly and Finn, and the piecing together of their mother-daughter relationship after Nancy’s death. Ritter in particular puts forward a likeable and charming performance as Zelly, as she shoplifts, steals Finn’s dope and skips school with her friends. Some of the best moments of the film are Zelly’s interactions with her school-friends Eve (Chantel Cole) and Max (Andrew Chalmers) – Max, by the way, has been banned from hanging out with Zelly by his extremely religious mother.
Reproductive choice is a consistent thread throughout the film; of course, it deals with the impacts of violent attacks on Finn’s overbooked abortion clinic, and the tremendous sacrifice and drive necessary to keep it open. But we also see glimpses into Finn’s fertility research. And, of course, Zelly was a ‘test tube baby’, brought into the world through the concerted choice of her parents to have a child.
Which is a bit of a breath of fresh air, because so often when we talk about choice and reproductive rights, it ends up being just about abortion rights – which is very important, but certainly not the be-all and end-all.
The DVD also comes with a 20-minute excerpt from Cardona and Colbert’s documentary My Feminism, which includes footage of key feminist figures such as bell hooks and Gloria Steinem talking about why feminism and reproductive choice are important to them. It gives some interesting context to some of the themes explored in the film itself – in particular, we see them raising issues, not just of access to abortion, but to forced sterilisation, lack of childcare and the myriad of other issues that feed into reproductive choice.
But it’s a family drama, not an after-school special. In an interview with AfterEllen.com, Cardona and Colbert note wryly:
“I’ll give you an example — we never were writing in a biracial relationship, it just so happened that the black woman who showed up to the film gave the best audition. I think people thought we sat around with all these issues and then wrote the script!”
Finn’s Girl is out on DVD on the 19th January. We have 3 copies to give away to the first keen blog readers, so why not save yourself a trip to the shops and email us at blog@birds-eye-view