Saturday, December 2, 2017

Creepy Adults, Cool Children

The Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976) - Gessner
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Rynn (Jodie Foster) just turned 13. She seems to be living in a big house in a small seaside New England town alone. She doesn't go to school and lives off of cashing traveller's checks which she keeps in a safety deposit box. She tells any adults who stop by, including her nosy landlady, Mrs. Hallet (Alexis Smith) and her pedophile son, Frank Hallet (Martin Sheen) & the town cop (Mort Shuman) that her poet father is either indisposed or out of town. She is very bright and cultured for her age and she is definitely hiding something.

It gets a little too invasive whenever the mom and son Hallets keep barging in unannounced, for different purposes. Rynn can't disguise the fact that she has been living alone any longer. Things get hairy when Mrs. Hallet goes missing. With the help of a limping amateur magician teen Mario (Scott Jacoby) who also happens to be the cop's nephew, Rynn trudge through the cold world of calculating grownups, finds comfort in being an outsider.

I do have a soft spot for cold New England movies sometimes - a fireplace, wool blankets, pea coats with hoodies, etc. The film has that comfortable loneliness to it. Taking place mostly in the house and originally conceived as a play, The Girl Who Lives Down the Lane has that teleplay vibe. Young Foster is great as a smart kid who is left all alone in the world and has to fend for herself. It's uncanny that she retains that all knowing smirk and directness since early in her career. Sheen is also great as a menacing pervert who really knows how to get under your skin.

It's a weird little film. I guess one can call it a psychological thriller. There are some 70s childsploitation elements with nudity and stuff but I was surprised how tender the film was. And the payoff at the end is great.