A film that will inevitably be compared to the collective works of Lewis Carroll and Wes Anderson, this accomplishedly charming and distinctly-styled Australian comedy recommends itself all on its own.
Greta (Bethany Whitmore in a winsomely charming performance) is having trouble fitting in with all the girls at school, instead befriending Elliott (Harrison Feldman). When her incorrigibly dense yet well-meaning parents tell her she’s having a birthday party and invite all her friends, it sets the stage for the heartfelt, vexatious moments of comedy that make this film such a gem.
Refusing to simply conform to the well-trodden norms of coming-of-age stories, Greta is instead whisked away to a fantastical wonderland-style world just across the way. Brimming with magical creatures and beings, vaguely similar to the figures in her slightly more-grounded life, Greta must navigate the awe-inspiring and seemingly insurmountable forest.
Greta’s hyper-realistic world is in parts only marginally more outlandish than aspects of her earthly existence where she is subjected to an outrageous family and several exquisitely staged nostalgia-heavy 70s dance sequences, which even amongst the magical goings-on are colourful highlights of the film.
A marvellous concept, Girl Asleep is regretfully all too short, the only substantive drawback of such an excellent film being that the casual viewer, easily beholden to such an enjoyable story, would naturally crave more than what is feasibly possible in its short 77-minute run time. Taking some time to build its alternate universe, we could easily have spent an extra 20 minutes exploring it and its musings, the entertaining role of Adam (Eamon Farren), amongst others, himself depicting a new arrival to the party and a mysterious figure in Greta’s new universe, touched on all too fleetingly.
Visually beguiling to no end, whether it be exploring her magical world or even the happenings at her involuntary birthday party, Girl Asleep is a feast for the eyes even if it can only be indulged in all too briefly.
‘Girl Asleep’ is screening on Saturday 17 June at the Sydney Film Festival and will be released in cinemas in September – for more information head to the Festival website