Horse Girl is an utterly bizarre film. On the surface, it feels very art-house and abstract in its style and ideas, whilst also presenting a wonderful character-driven examination of a socially awkward woman spiraling, just as things begin to look up in her life. The blending of genres is ultimately what makes this film such an endearing watch though and Alison Brie’s performance carries the film through some of the slower segments before the plot takes over and progresses through to a very strange final act that’s certainly left open to interpretation.
The story itself gravitates around a girl called Sarah. Living with her room-mate, she spends her time isolated, socially awkward and watching the supernatural crime show Purgatory. What begins as a lighthearted rom-com, thanks to meeting Darren on her birthday, soon evolves into something far more weird and off-key as this character-driven drama takes some surprising turns. There’s elements of science fiction, psychological thriller and even comedy at work here and Horse Girl does a surprisingly good job juggling all of this across its run-time. While it’s a far cry from something like Parasite that executes this idea to perfection, Horse Girl is solid enough in this idea.
The discordant orchestral score only adds to the unconventional manner of film-making and it works so well against some of the deliberately mundane and repetitive shots of Sarah’s life. In a way, it reflects the scatter-brain persona Sarah adopts, struggling to come to grips with what’s happening in her life as things begin to unravel. To avoid spoilers, let’s just say the third act will make or break your experience with this one. Given the storytelling up until that point, personally I think it works quite well although reading this in a more metaphorical and thematic way rather than what’s literally happening on screen does tend to work a little better for the narrative.
Ultimately though it’s Alison Brie that elevates the film and makes it so endearing. Her honest portrayal of this troubled young lady works perfectly and whether it be the heart-breaking way she tries to connect with strangers or the deadpan delivery of unintentional jokes, there’s a really great blend of ideas here that Brie brings to life in the best possible way. When things begin to unravel during the midway point, Brie executes on this with just the right amount of incredulousness to make this feel realistic.
Horse Girl won’t be for everyone and there’s sure to be a fair few people that this film won’t resonate with, especially during the latter parts of the story. While that is true, Horse Girl offers up a really well-written and honest examination of mental health in the process. Alison Brie is fantastic though, and alongside the art-house plot make this one of the more unusual films of the year. If you can take to the style, this is sure to be one of those movies that keep you thinking after the final credits. That lasting impact is enough to make this a film worth watching.