Making its European Premiere at Frightfest 2017 as part of the Discovery Screen scheduling, Iranian /American film-maker Natasha Kermani’s Imitation Girl evokes memories of The Man Who Fell To Earth and John Carpenter’s Starman, but provides a refreshing slant on both those earlier movies and Kermani is to be saluted for creating one of the most thought-provoking and tenderly filmed cult science fiction films of the 21st Century.
Crash-landing in the middle of the South-Western American desert, a liquid alien form assumes the identity of a discarded magazine cover star, Julianna (Lauren Ashley Carter), a porn star and model making a living in New York City. Julianna is not aware of the arrival of her imitation and is struggling with her own journey, with a drug addiction and questionable relationships.
Meanwhile, the imitation finds a surrogate home with an Iranian brother and sister, who are both fascinated and mystified by her. In turn, unaware of her origins, they begin to help her to overcome her alienation and detachment from the world. The alien is very receptive to language and actions and learns to communicate effectively and quickly in her bid to find her place on this planet…
It is an absolutely refreshing delight to encounter a science-fiction film with a strong female protagonist that isn’t gung-ho, as well as an alien arrival film that doesn’t rely on that huge CGI-battle and great shocks in the process a la Independence Day. Kermani has such adept feeling and passion for the subject and brings her cross-cultural background to good use. At a brisk 84 minutes running time, the film certainly keeps the interest flowing.
Imitation Girl rises and falls on the efforts of it’s leading lady – and Lauren Ashley Carter is so, so good in the dual role of Julianna and the title role, conveying the desperation of a struggling model in the former, whilst generating the wide-eyed curiosity of the latter as she makes her way in the world. The Last Starfighter and Night of the Comet fans will also cheer with the brief-but-pivotal supporting appearance of Catherine Mary Stewart, barely recognisable as an old acquaintance of Julianna.
At a short and solid eighty-four minute running time, Imitation Girl keeps the attention and the dual character arcs are effectively realised. Like The Man Who Fell to Earth, the cinematography adds strength and clarity to the story with wide landscape shots, juxtaposed with the locality of New York. It also incorporates diversity and sexual issues without preaching and doesn’t short-change the ideas at its heart and climax.
One hopes that Imitation Girl will find an audience beyond the FrightFest and genre festival circuit, as it has much to offer like other recent sci-fi classics such as Ex Machina.
IMITATION GIRL / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: NATASHA KERMANI / STARRING: LAUREN ASHLEY CARTER, NEIMAH DJOURABCHI, ADAM DAVID THOMPSON / RELEASE DATE: TBC