Director: Jeff Baena
Writer: Jeff Baena, Alison Brie
Cast: Alison Brie, Molly Shannon, Debby Ryan, John Reynolds, John Ortiz, Lauren Weedman, Hazel Armenante, Jake Picking, Toby Huss, Robin Tunney, Matthew Gray Gubler
Seen on: 3.11.2021
Content Note: cripping up
Sarah (Alison Brie) lives a very quiet life. She works at an arts and craft store with Joan (Molly Shannon) and very much likes crafts herself. She lives with a roommate, Nikki (Debby Ryan), who keeps inviting her to go out a little more, but she rather stays home to watch a supernatural TV show about Agatha (Robin Tunney) and Darren (Matthew Gray Gubler). In her time off, she likes to visit a horse that used to be hers. But Sarah finds herself having strange dreams and zoning out more and more. There is something going on that she just can’t grasp.
Horse Girl is a very well-made film that is serious beneath its soft appearance and its sense of humor. With a fantastic performance by Brie, we get a character study that packs a punch after a soft beginning.
Horse Girl manages an impressive thing, pulling you deeply into Sarah’s world and leaving you in doubt for a long time what exactly is going on with her. So much so that I’m debating with myself whether it is already a spoiler if I discuss things in more detail. In that sense: proceed with caution from here on. And if you’re curious about the film already, maybe watch it before continuing to read.
As we’re deeply within Sarah’s perspective, we are as confused about what is going on around her as she is. Is she really being abducted by aliens? For a while there, it seems almost likely that the film actually takes us in this direction. But the reality is much more prosaic – as is so often the case. Sarah is mentally ill, and loses her grasp on reality more and more. I really appreciated Sarah’s characterization, too: so often, mental illness is conflated with someone being dangerous and threatening, when really, mentally ill people are rarely dangerous to anybody but themselves. It’s hard to imagine somebody less threatening than Sarah in any case, and that gives the film the opportunity to focus on what’s important: Sarah and her suffering.
It’s also interesting to consider the film title. I know that “Horse Girls” are often ridiculed and found to be weird, but at the same time, being a Horse Girl is also seen as an almost mandatory phase of growing up as a girl. The negative view is something that Horse Girls share with mental illness (or, in fact, being a Horse Girl can easily be seen as actually mentally ill), while the film seems to push the point that mental illness is something that happens to a lot of people. Some leave it behind, some don’t – just like being a Horse Girl.
The film isn’t entirely serious, though. It does find moments of humor that may throw people off the fact that this is not a funny situation at all. It’s a difficult balance that the film manages very well, especially thanks to Brie’s performance. In any case, even in its weaker moments, Horse Girl is a film worth seeing.