Film Description and Director Biography
A woman loses track of her young daughter in a park. We see her panicked, searching, desperate.
Fifteen years pass. The woman’s son, a stand-up guy, is throwing an engagement party. Her husband, now remarried, is still trying to console Julia (Sigourney Weaver) over the loss. She has completely cut herself off from the world; she is a stone, unable to feel, to love. Into this barren life comes a spunky, streetwise young woman who evokes feelings Julia thought were long dead.
The Girl in the Park marks the directing debut of David Auburn, winner of both a Tony Award and a Pulitzer Prize for his play Proof, which he later adapted for the screen. A film of this nature leans heavily on performance, and Auburn has elicited a particularly fine one from Weaver. Although I suppose she will be forever associated with the Alien series, a quick read through her filmography reveals an unusually rich catalogue of unsettling, complex dramatic performances in films such as The Ice Storm, Imaginary Heroes and Snow Cake. She seems particularly attracted to people shunned and disliked by those around them. We often talk about courageous roles; hers is a courageous career, full of risk.
The two other principals also shine. As Louise, the young woman who enters Julia’s life unexpectedly, Kate Bosworth puts her offbeat charm to great use. It is a tough role; Louise is forever wary of the world, especially this oddly kind but formidable female presence that is looming over her. Bosworth evokes freedom and devil-may-care insouciance, but always makes us remember that they are bought at a terrible price. The always superb Alessandro Nivola gives the film enhanced depth and substance as Julia’s frustrated son Chris.
The plot of The Girl in the Park is the stuff of melodrama, but Auburn avoids every pitfall of the genre. Every twist is carefully planned and grounded in character. This is a meditative, beautiful film that uses minimal means for maximum emotional power. An aura of tranquil calm suffuses every frame of Auburn’s incredible debut, leaving a sense of thoughtfulness and care in its wake.
David Auburn was born in Chicago and studied English literature at the University of Chicago. He spent two years in the Juilliard School’s playwriting programme. His first full-length play, Skyscraper, ran off-Broadway in 1997, and his second, Proof (00), won a Tony Award for best play and a Pulitzer Prize for drama. He adapted Proof into a 2005 film that screened at the Festival, and has since written the screenplay for The Lake House (06). The Girl in the Park (07) is his feature directing debut.