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Just A Girl

average rating is 4 out of 5


Patrick Foley


Posted on:

Jul 16, 2023

Film Reviews
Just A Girl
Directed by:
Kieran Freemantle
Written by:
Kieran Freemantle
Lydia Fitzwilliams, Olly Bassi, Patrick Mckenzie

It was only a matter of time before the ‘hairy, grizzled and bereaved dad-meets-surrogate, hunted daughter in distress’ genre crossed over from video games into film. Just A Girl is a solid, action-packed example, which makes up for a lack of originality with substantial and well-realised storytelling packed into its brief 20-minute runtime.


After escaping from a sinister birthing facility in a world where most women have been wiped out by a mystery plague, teenager Katie (Lydia Fitzwilliams) is rescued by Jack (Olly Bassi), a hermit farmer mourning the loss of his family. As someone expected to repopulate the human race, Katie is wanted by the government, but Jack promises to help her reunite with her family. There’s one problem: the pair meet on the Shetland Isles – with access to the mainland closely monitored. The pair face a dangerous race to meet a smuggler who promises them safe passage.


Just A Girl walks on a similar post-apocalyptic path that Pedro Pascal paved in this years’ The Last of Us. At its heart is the relationship between Jack and Katie – developing through the film from initial fear and uncertainty on Katie’s part, towards an embrace as the pair begin to reflect on one another. Katie sees firsthand the need for violence and sacrifice to survive in the new world. And Jack finds a purpose in protecting Katie after abandoning hope. It’s well-worn storytelling, but the character development is clear to see in each of the main leads – though the short runtime does demand that this occurs at a rapid pace that can seem unnatural.


The plot elects to focus on the relationship of Jack and Katie rather than elaborate sci-fi worldbuilding – and this is a wise decision on behalf of director and writer Kieran Freemantle. Enough is given to the audience to construe their own image of a world haunted by a virus that has wiped out the female population, and the dangerous and sexist society that has emerged as a result. However, despite opening with Katie and her predicament being the driving force of the story, it often feels like it is Jack’s actions and motivations that drive events. It is Jack’s yearning to do right by his lost family that triggers the journey to the mainland, Jack’s idea to use the smuggler and Jack who acts to escape soldiers at a checkpoint. Without giving plot spoilers away, it is also Jack’s fulfilment that is the beat on which the story ends. Beyond her initial escape, Katie is a bystander in the film’s events – which for a film with prominent themes of gender and misogyny, feels like something of an unfortunate oversight.


The drama and action are well delivered, with both leads given opportunity to demonstrate their talent. Lydia Fitzwilliams sets the tone of the film brilliantly in the opening facility scene, with her fear key to unfolding the horror of the film’s world. Olly Bassi’s Jack is framed as both welcoming and suspicious – to realise Katie’s uncertainty around his motives. The Shetland Isles setting is shot beautifully as well, with some striking drone images demonstrating the isolation the pair have to overcome. Though for a world that has fallen victim to a terrible disaster, there is a lack of disrepair or degradation to the land or Jack’s home that does detract from the immersion.


There’s a lot to admire in Just A Girl, which outperforms its smaller scale production with some serious ambition and intelligent focus on key story and character elements. Whilst lacking in originality, it is bound to speak to the protective, nurturing and parental senses of its viewers. Pedro would be proud.

About the Film Critic
Patrick Foley
Patrick Foley
Short Film, Digital / DVD Release, Indie Feature Film
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