Fantasia Review: 'A Good Woman Is Hard to Find' Is a Lesson in Not Messing With Single Moms Directed by Abner Pastoll
Starring Sarah Bolger, Edward Hogg, Andrew Simpson
Published Aug 01, 2019Motherhood has more often than not been glamorized by Hollywood: films that portray mothers who somehow manage to juggle work and family, all while looking pristine. Abner Pastoll's A Good Woman Is Hard to Find strips away that idealism and presents a more realistic picture, albeit a gruesome one. And a lesson on why you shouldn't mess with single moms.
In one of the film's opening scenes, Sarah (Sarah Bolger), a single mother of two, is shopping at the grocery store. She has a list in her hand, with a note on the max amount of cash she is able to spend. When it comes time to pay, however, she finds herself short. It's hard to watch because, as all mother's do, they want to buy what their children want and buy the best things for them. But Sarah is the representation of the reality of all lower-class families — something rarely seen in film.
Like many lower-class families, Sarah has to raise her children in a rough neighbourhood infested with drugs. Her husband, as we learn, was a victim of the violence that comes with living in a neighbourhood controlled by thugs and drug dealers. While the police believe that her husband's death was drug-related, Sarah isn't convinced, but the police refuse to help her. "Let sleeping dogs lies," they say.
The only person who really knows the truth is her son, who was with his dad when he was killed, but he hasn't spoken a word since. When she thinks that things couldn't possibly get any worse, a drug dealer breaks into her house in order to hide from the neighbourhood kingpin, Leo Miller (Edward Hogg). The drug dealer, Tito (Andrew Simpson), stole drugs from him and wants to hide them at her house with the promise of a cut. When Sarah refuses, he threatens her. And Simpson delivers a performance that is truly frightening, as you become afraid for Sarah and her two young children.
In one scene, Sarah sits in her dimly lit living room watching a news segment about the unemployment crisis. You can physically see how the cost of living is weighing down on her, and she knows it will only get worse as her children get older. To avoid upsetting Tito, she accepts the cut, which gives her the peace of mind she hasn't had since her husband's death.
A Good Woman Is Hard to Find inadvertently argues that indeed money does buy you happiness, as Sarah is shown teaching her children how to eat spaghetti for the first time, dancing around their living room and laughing together watching the movie they could finally afford to buy. This moment of bliss comes to an end when Tito finds out that Sarah's son accidentally got into his stash. The film quickly turns into a gruesome thriller, as Sarah must do whatever it takes to protect her family and confront the truth about her husband's murder.
Not only do director Abner Pastoll and writer Ronan Blaney deliver a solid vengeance thriller, but it's surprising how successfully two men manage to craft a strong female lead and a script that has a self-awareness in regards to how society, especially men, look at less advantaged women. Sarah is treated like a second-class citizen because she's a single mom with no job or education. The grocer assumes that the only way she has money is because she's a prostitute; her own mother talks down to her, lamenting that Sarah "could have been something," and the people who are supposed to help her, don't. "What's it about women like you," the police say. The way everyone in this film demeans her is incredibly hard to watch, but it's reality.
At its core, A Good Woman Is Hard to Find is a film about systemic oppression and one woman's desperation to overcome it. Bolger couldn't have played her part more perfectly; her performance is nuanced in the transformation that her character goes through. At the beginning, Sarah has unkempt hair and dark circles under her eyes, but by the end, she is strutting with newfound confidence. And all of this leading to a conclusion that has the biggest She Did That energy of the year. (Independent)