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Released 14 December 2012
Director Justin Lerner

Evan Sneider, Shannon Woodward, Jackson Rathbone, Amanda Plummer, Nate Krawshuk, Jerad Anderson
Writer(s) Justin Lerner

Jerad Anderson, Kristina Lauren Anderson, Shaun O'Brien
Origin United States
Running Time 94 minutes
Genre Drama
Rating TBC

Love hurts.

Nestling in between the big releases of the holiday season is a little, unpolished gem called Girlfriend which has been doing the festival rounds quite successfully since 2011. The film follows a young man with Down’s Syndrome called Evan (played by Evan Sneider). Evan lives and works with his mother Celeste in a small town and dreams one day of having a great love affair. The particular object of his affections is Candy (Shannon Woodward), the prettiest girl of his high school class who is now a single mother struggling to pay her rent, while dealing with her no-good ex Russ (Jackson Rathbone). When an unexpected tragedy leaves Evan with some money, he decides to help Candy and in doing so, becomes convinced that she is his girlfriend.

This is writer/director Justin Lerner’s first feature length movie, a fact that is telling as Girlfriend certainly has its problems. The film feels like a character study of Evan which has been stretched to breaking point and as a result the supporting characters are one note at best. Russ and Candy are small town cliches, who are hard to believe in or warm to in any meaningful way. This is a shame as Woodward could have coped with a more nuanced characterisation. Lerner has also had problems with the narrative. While the film starts strong, it soon gets a little baggy and completely loses its way in search of an ending.

Having said that, there are pleasures to be found in Girlfriend if you can see past its flaws. Filmed in the backwater town in which Lerner grew up, the film has a great sense of place; a sleepy, insular community surrounded by woodland. Then of course, there is the central performance from Evan Sneider which holds our attention throughout. He gives a wonderfully sincere and moving turn that is sensitively handled by Lerner with a mixture of pathos and humour. In short, it is Sneider that makes the film worth watching.

So if you feel like something a little more subdued during this hectic time, Girlfriend is worth a look. Though it is far from perfect, it has enough emotional heft to make it an absorbing watch.

- Linda O’Brien