Horse Girl is a quirky time travel paradox that is as vulnerable as it is sweet.
Horse Girl is a science fiction drama with all the quirkiness you didn’t know you needed in your life. It shows a different side to science fiction and time travel, being different in a sweet way. Although some stark traumas, heavy events and grief are a part of her life, the main character Sarah tries to make sense of it all, in spite of all the cynics. It very well reminds of Safety Not Guaranteed (2012) which has a similar theme and background, and feel, ad even time travel, but a different approach. Not very strange as it was also produced by Mark and Jay Duplass. This dreamlike surreal weirdness is an absolute joy to watch, with a little bit of sadness, some sentiment, but with an overall positive vibe.
Sarah is a quirky woman with a love for a supernatural crime series called Purgatory, her horse Willow and her job in the hobby store. Though she is socially awkward, she cares for her horse, her boss Joan and her old friend who suffers form brain damage after falling off her horse. When Sarah meets a man named after her favorite character Darren, things are looking up, but at the same time she’s tormented by strange dreams that invade her life.
Why you should watch it
Horse Girl has an outstanding cast, feeling natural and real. Sarah is the most likable character, but with a strange edge and you are rooting for her that she’s right and not crazy. For she thinks her dreams mean something else. She loses time, she ends up in her sleep in totally different places than her own bed, she dreams of a man and a woman and then sees that man walking in the street. She also resembles her grandmother Helen a lot, like a dead ringer even, a woman who always claimed to be from the future and was treated as insane. Sarah therefore thinks she’s abducted by aliens, for she sees black figures in her dreams, or she’s her grandmother’s clone, or maybe the government has something to do with it.
The time travel strangeness is subtly woven into the story. Just like Sarah you think she’s just psychotic due to the traumas she has been going through, but you will end up believing her, or wanting to. The way how time is jumbled up is fun and adds to the mystery. While the focus stays on Sarah’s endearing character. She jumps through time, like she jumps through the scenes in a confusing way, but isn’t that hard to figure out. Even the big question, if it’s all in her head or not, is shown at the end of the film, when a scene from the beginning of the film is now shown from two peoples perspectives, making it a real thing instead of only in Sarah’s head.
Although the film seems to address mental illness at first and it has its heartbreaking moments, it eventually is a science fiction film about time travel. It addresses the Bootstrap paradox in particular and contains a sort of a Grandfather paradox, but then quite the opposite actually. For she doesn’t kill her grandfather and therefore doesn’t exist, but is maybe in fact her own grandmother. It is a fun new take on the science fiction genre making it really feminine.
The cinematography is light and airy, just like the music score. It feels uplifting and quirky at the same time which is a perfect fit with Sarah’s character. The abduction dreams are surreal and a bit scary even, because it is not what you might expected. The conversations are all very natural, as is the acting, making it a real little gem.
My favorite part
The scenes where things spiral out of control, after her date with Darren and cleansing the room, with Sarah ending up naked in the hobby store are difficult scenes to watch. Because it couldn’t have been filmed more vulnerable than this. It’s heartbreaking, and at this moment both Sarah as the audience will doubt her strong believe in abductions and time travel. Is she really abducted or just broken down insane? It is the breaking point, and the turning point of the film where it can go either way. There are some of us who maybe hope it isn’t real and it’s all about mental illness, and others hope she’s right. But there are enough hints along the way, that suggest just one path which turns out to be a wonderful adventure.
Drama factor: ★★★★☆
Originality factor: ★★★★☆
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Cast and crew
Horse Girl is directed and written by Jeff Baena and cowritten by Alison Brie. It stars Alison Brie (Sarah), Molly Shannon (Joan), Debby Ryan (Nikki), John Reynolds (Darren) and Paul Reiser (Gary).
Duration: 104 minutes. Music: Josiah Steinbeck, Jeremy Zuckerman. Cinematography: Sean McElwee. Edited by: Ryan Brown. Produced by: Jeff Baena, Alison Brie, Alana Carithers, Mel Eslyn. Production companies: Duplass Brothers Productions. Distributed by: Netflix.