It’s clear from the opening stretch of Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl that this is a film with no qualms about showing its influences. It is a film in love with the American gothic of the 1970s, movies like Burnt Offerings along with many of the chilly, autumnal cinematic hauntings that decade produced. There’s also more than a hint of the European horror of those years and many more films that tell of dark deeds in creepy houses and long-buried secrets that bring their wickedness into the present. These days there’s plenty of films presenting homage to the decades that influence them and little more than that. Fortunately there's more to this Lonely tale.
Adele is a young woman living an uneasy life with her mother and her mother's grubby partner, escaping only through music and headphones. When an opportunity comes to act as a live-in carer for her reclusive (and rich) aunt, Adele takes it. The aunt, Dora, spends all of her time in her room and bar the odd uttered sentence communicates mostly in hand written notes. It initially seems like Adele has traded one form of loneliness for another until she makes a friend in Beth. Beth is beautiful, impulsive and uninhibited - everything Adele feels she is not. As they spend more time together the friendship becomes very intense very quickly, especially for Adele. But it isn’t destined to last and the consequences of this will be devastating for Adele, as madness and horror lie ahead of her.
Let’s be clear, many people will find Lonely more than a little frustrating. It’s a slight story, which seemingly puts visuals and atmosphere above narrative coherency and logic. The ending will probably irritate a lot of people, coming so abruptly as it does. And yet, we loved it. Sure, it’s not a perfect film. It doesn’t do anything new with those influences, and it is in some ways too restrained, feeling like it could have let loose at points where it chooses to remain tightly wound. It arguably could have spent more time with its characters at just 75 minutes. But there’s also much to praise.
Writer and director A.D. Calvo gets that atmosphere mostly spot on. It’s certainly reminiscent of other films but manages to be its own compelling thing too. The focus on mainly just the two leads is rewarded with excellent performances by Erin Wilhelmi and Quinn Shephard.
Calvo also manages to insert some striking visuals here and there, which hark back to those inspirations in the best way. Whilst it certainly won’t be to everyone’s tastes, we enjoyed this twisted little meditation on loneliness reaching beyond death, and recommend you give it a try.
SWEET, SWEET LONELY GIRL / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: A.D. CALVO / STARRING: ERIN WILHELMI, QUINN SHEPHARD, SUSAN KELLERMANN / RELEASE DATE: UK RELEASE DATE TBA