In the world of social media, it’s all about authenticity – and learning how to fake it.
These days online, it’s not the person who matters, but the persona. That’s one of the main messages of Another Girl, a dark drama from Allison Burnett. Who’s the real person at the other end of a tweet? Of a review, for that matter?
Whoever they want to be, and want you to see.
Burnett’s last film, 2014’s Ask Me Anything, told the story of Katie, a teenage girl writing a blog about her daily dilemmas. But was she really writing it, or was someone else? Was any of it even real? The film (based on Burnett’s novel) played with notions of image and identity, fiction and reality.
An unofficial, stand-alone sequel, Another Girl pushes those ideas further.
College student Elle Overton is flailing. She hates her conservative Christian college. She’s stuck in an abusive relationship. She’s already tried to commit suicide, once.
Then she finds Katie’s old, neglected website. She pours out her heart, and hits Send. And amazingly, gets a reply. The two young women start talking. They begin to form a relationship. They become friends.
But what kind of relationship can it be when you never see the other person in real life? What kind of friend keeps so much of herself hidden?
As Elle, the baby-faced Sammi Hanratty powers the film along with an energetic, energizing performance. She’s a hugely flawed, and fascinating character, someone who makes impulsive (and often terrible) decisions based solely on her emotions at the time. It’s hard to know exactly who she is and that’s the point. Elle doesn’t know either, yet.
Eventually, she drops out of school, leaves home and takes refuge with her gay brother, Connor (nicely played by Paul Rush). She gets a job in marketing – a job also built around shifting perceptions and deceptive images – and falls for her slippery British boss, Peter Gadiot. But the most important person in her life remains the one she never sees, Katie.
Burnett (a veteran screenwriter, and novelist) remains in firm control of his characters throughout, as well as his visuals. The dialogue is sharp, without being ostentatiously witty, and the plot builds to an abrupt and shocking unexpected climax. There are small nice moments, too – the sour look another woman in the office occasionally shoots Elle’s way, the way nighttime streets are washed in red or blue.
There are some small flaws. The timeline bounces around a bit, making it unclear exactly when some events are unfolding. And although Connor and his partner joke about being “heterophobic,” for the film, it’s not really that much of a joke. In this script, it seems to be a given that every man, unless he’s gay, is crude and on the make, and always on the brink of brutal violence.
But then, as Elle’s one, real-life friend tells her, “There are good guys out there. You just don’t see them.” And Another Girl is all about Elle’s limited view of the world. And the way she desperately wants to limit what the world sees of her.