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I Am All Girls Film Review

★★★ Stars

Directed by: #DonovanMarsh

 

“A special crimes investigator forms an unlikely bond with a serial killer to bring down a global child sex trafficking syndicate.”

Two girls stand back to back looking towards the camera; the image being split and torn like wallpaper to reveal one of them in the image for a second time - now in a black raincoat with a more ‘stern’ expression.

I Am All Girls doesn’t necessarily have a main character focus, following both Jodie Synman (Erica Wessels) who is a crime investigator and her colleague Ntombizonke Bapai (Hlubi Mboya) who works in forensics, but carries herself outside of the law in the shadows. They are both emotionally invested in tracking down the monsters who fuel a global child sex trafficking syndicate but are so in vastly different proportions. The journey in this film is not one for the faint of heart as it delves into a topic so vile and bursts it open by yanking at the seams. Yet, I push even the faint hearted to bare this journey as the horrors of child trafficking aren’t sugarcoated. I Am All Girls may not be a 5 star film from a critic’s perspective, but if it does anything then it brings much needed attention to an underground world of barbarity that is unknowingly cycling around you now as you read these words.


At first, I thought the lack of dialogue was a very good writers choice to make to allow the full impact of emotion and gut wrenching moments to hit the viewer. Though, as the film continues, it becomes evident that this might not have been a forwardly smart choice on the writers’ behalf — the writing overall is very weak, not just when it comes to the sparse communication between characters. I Am All Girls is unable to decide if it wants to be a story that depicts triumph in law or mysterious revenge. Not having a direct path to follow in this way leaves the film feeling slightly lost at times, which is again heavily impacted by the very few slices of dialogue that viewers are given. Even so, the dialogue that is shared appears awkward as the writing of such speech is blunt and without much context due to the characters not being able to verbally develop their stance in the story. If the writers (Emile Leuvennink, Marcell Greeff, Wayne Fitzjohn, Donovan Marsh) wanted to maybe focus more on a ‘classic’ revenge storyline, then they had an abundance of opportunities to give characters, Ntombizonke in particular, extremely powerful monologues that reflect the pain and suffering of the topic being presented.

Although the script may lack the emotional kick that I was expecting, thankfully the visuals and score make up for most of which that was missing. The cinematography (Trevor Calverley) is stunning, enhancing the atmosphere of each setting to an extent that fully immerses a viewer. This can feel overwhelming at times because of the nature of scenes depicting frail young girls who have been kidnapped and abused, but this is where the desired emotion finally becomes evident in the film. Overwhelming is the perfect feeling to have in this sense and I applaud Calverley for his work. Music by Brendan Jury entrancingly compliments the use of camera to pull in audiences; the eerie and anxiety inducing tracks have the ability to make the heart race. I Am All Girls relies heavily on these two elements and fortunately they do not disappoint.


From my viewing experience, the acting is brilliant here — especially with what the cast had to work with in terms of characterisation and development in writing. Hlubi Mboya gives a notably striking performance; her outpour of feeling and reaction to her character’s past trauma holds an incredible level of intensity. Through her eyes you are able to see her pain, almost directly feeling its crushing weight yourself. This character must be undoubtedly difficult to portray because of the torment she carries yet Mboya is simply captivating.


I Am All Girls, now streaming on Netflix, may feel a little muddled and unsure of itself at times but it is an important watch for the quite unfiltered look into the darkness and bruising of trafficking through this inky storyline. All in all, I do recommend giving this a watch; mainly because the struggles of the topic involved are from both a legal investigation perspective as well as a victim’s perspective, adding an extra level of intrigue throughout its duration.


I’m stating a trigger warning for themes of abuse and sexual violence before you decide to watch, stay safe!

 

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