Edinburgh International Film Festival

The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches (2017)

Starring: Marine Johnson, Antoine L'Écuyer, Jean-François Casabonne, Alex Godbout

Directed by: Simon Lavoie

Rating: 1 2 3

You've see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. You've seen The Girl on the Train. Now see... The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches...

Or not, because blimey, it's a bit of an endurance feat!

The girl of the title lives on a run down farm with her brother and father. Except her father calls her 'son' and her brother calls her 'brother' – and is sexually abusing her. Told you it was grim. Oh, and as for the woodshed... let's not even go there...

Marine Johnson as the Little Girl who was too fond of matches

But when the girl's violent, alcoholic, depressive father dies and she ventures to the nearby village for the first time, she realises that her entire life is a tangled lie – and it's about to unravel catastrophically.

Shot entirely in dim monochrome, this classic gothic melodrama of an isolated, dysfunctional family slowly self-destructing on the edge of nowhere is hardly new – think Iain Banks' seminal mindf**k of a novel The Wasp Factory crossed with Shirkey Jackson's creepy tale of twisted families We Have Always Lived In The Castle.

At almost two hours, it's waaay too long and takes forever to get going (there's about quarter of an hour of arty farty nonsense – moody shots, random nudity and creaky sound effects – before anyone says a word) but once it hits it stride, The Little Girl... becomes more involving, mostly due to a committed performance from Marine Johnson, who bears more than a passing resemblance to Fellini's tragic, maltreated heroine Gelsomina in La Strada.

At times hammy, overwrought and a little ridiculous (the 'big reveal' at the end is pretty obvious if you've been paying attention) at others oddly moving, the crap bits of The Little Girl... are worth wading through to get to the good bits. Which last probably makes me the girl who was too fond of damning with faint praise...

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