I Am All Girls Movie Review: A character-driven thriller that tackles a difficult subject matter
The intense performances and an interesting theme save the film’s up-and-down storyline from mediocrity
Though I Am All Girls follows a tried-and-tested formula, it is an effective thriller. Inspired by true events, the film makes connections to a South African child trafficking case of the mid-90s, in which six children went missing and were never heard from again.
Stressed out and emotionally-charged lead investigator Jodie Snyman gets taken off her current assignment to be put in charge of a strange murder. The middle-aged victim was once a cabinet minister accused of paedophilia. The corpse, propped up in the middle of a public park, has the initials TSC carved into its chest. It doesn’t take long for Jodie to locate a room in the man’s house that ties him to the sexual abuse of his own granddaughter. As the web of deceit gets more and more intricate (implicating the rich and the powerful alike), it becomes clear that an invisible hand is one step ahead of the police at every stage.
Director: Donovan Marsh
Cast: Erica Wessels, Hlubi Mboya, Deon Lotz, Brendon Daniels, Mothusi Magano
Streaming on: Netflix
One of the central themes of I Am All Girls is the psychological burden suffered by police officers — especially those in charge of cases of murder, violence and human trafficking. It appears as if Jodie’s work is her whole life, and all she’s able to do is obsess over every minute detail of police work. This may make for good investigating, not necessarily good personal or professional relations. She isn’t the most popular person in the office; her boss and she clash on many things, and he orders her to take time off as she’s exhibiting signs of post-traumatic stress. “This job gets to all of us,” he says, to which she responds, “It’s supposed to get to us, otherwise what the **** are we doing?”
The film relies on two facets to present its case; the police aspect and the human one. And sometimes, these lines blur when the investigators aren’t able to keep a safe distance between the case and their personal prejudices. The killer, as it appears, has the same problem. It is revealed early on that the latter has vested interests too. The murders aren’t as cold-blooded as they may appear.
I Am All Girls is an engaging psychological thriller, which tackles some difficult and often disturbing topics, but in an effort to go deep, it misses a trick. It is a character-driven film, make no mistake, but it could have benefitted from more plotlines, perhaps. As the frames pass you by, you get a vague feeling of being stuck in the same place. The plot moves forward only to bring the audience back to square one. A key explanation as to how Jodie comes to a certain revelation towards the end is completely left out; how and why would have made sense to explore in this regard.
Themes of the police and perpetrator seeing eye to eye for a common goal aren’t new. While it was more overt in efforts such as The Boondock Saints and Dexter, it is far more subtle here. Jodie is intrigued by the killer’s modus operandi, not in favour of it. She knows there will be five more targets after the first murder (linking it to the six missing girls), but is unable to stop them from happening. The intense involvement in her case (her need to uncover the whole truth so as to bring justice to many of the trafficked children) and the trials of her complex private life, have her questioning right from wrong at every given turn.
This is a film worth investing in for the underlying theme of officers being weighed down by the emotional burdens of complex investigations. But more than its narrative structure, this character-driven film rests on the powerful acting performances of Erica Wessels, Hlubi Mboya and Mothusi Magano. If it weren’t for them, the slightly above-par story might not have made as much of an impression.