The production design of the movie edges over into the idealization of
TV-series - you know, the staircase and couch and child's room off
somewhere away from the main theater of family drama. The parents are
plays in a slightly stilted way - again, it's subtle, because it's the way
The Child sees them.
Everyone around The Child tries to get her to talk - shaming her, conning
her, tricking her, but she's on to all of it, and the actual triumph of
this film is to show how she realizes her power. The manipulation she's
capable of is amusing and enlightening - yes, children are as crafty as
they can be. Of course, they learn these lessons as part of self-defense.
Another of de Heer's correct observations is her innate sadness. When
conflicts encircle a child, and she's confused by the hot-and-cold behavior
of parents, she retreats. Here, as the parents are yelling at each other,
"I make my own peace." Her neediness to play - and adults are either too
busy or too sad themselves to play - speaks out against only-children. We
seldom see her in the company of other children. She seems to be the taffy
in a taffy-pull of power between The Father and The Mother.
I don't particularly like the ending. The Girl wants a dog and to move to
the country. And they do, and that's that. It feels a little pat, but
many people endorse happy endings, so I'll shut up.
The performance of Chloe Ferguson is absolutely astonishing. When she's
afraid of monsters, we are fearful. When her face lights up from tickling,
we want to take her in our arms. I think this ought to be a film on every
parent's shelf - just to remind us they are watching - and understanding
more about us than we are about them.
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