Girl Asleep, screening in this year’s Sydney Film Festival, has a lot in common with a pair of teen-oriented films that screened in the festival last year. Like the impressive Diary of a Teenage Girl and the not-so-impressive Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Rosemary Dyer’s directorial debut uses the “Sundance aesthetic” – twee vibes, a handmade feel, frequent forays into fantasy – to tackle the oh-so-familiar story of a teenager growing up.
The main thing that sets Girl Asleep apart from such contemporaries is its thoughtful incorporation of said fantasy. Where the fantastical flourishes of the aforementioned films fade into the background as their protagonists mature, Dyer commits, staging a full-on dream sequence – complete with gloriously cheap-looking props and costumes – in the film’s final third.
Here, fantasy is a pointed metaphor for clinging onto the accoutrements of youth in the face of maturity and all it represents. It’s a clever take on an increasingly-tired subgenre; unfortunately, it’s somewhat marred by the slightness of the screenplay (adapted from screenwriter Matthew Whittet’s own play), which prioritises ‘mean girl’ and ‘nerdy boy’ stereotypes – and silly ‘70s fashion – over a truly thoughtful interrogation of the teen years. Still, a fun – and often funny – experience.