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* Contains spoilers *
The flaws in this film, if they are flaws, are few and slight (and listed below), and do not detract from its narrative power : it runs to longer than one thinks that it has done, and does so almost easelessly, without ever letting one acquiesce in a view.
As to that observation, those who expect a film to let them know where they are have a sense of being uncomfortable in the unsettled feelings that the film engenders, because they are strong ones – nothing to do with a moral compass (a phrase for which there should be scant time in the cinema), but rather that films are not sermons, and it is questionable whether one should look to the former for what an effective example of the latter might make clearer.
Some things are uncertain – and remain so for most, or all, of the film. Our toe-hold is the town of Hammond (Mammond, as I slipped Freudianly on the keyboard…) in the mid-1950s, which does not seem have much to commend it to anyone much, let alone spirited teenage girls who had more than an element of what I am told* is called misandry, the complement to (if that makes sense) misogyny. Small wonder, if an uncle seeking not only to sell an old Underwood (which he had left out to be collected), but also to get more money for it and sex, too (from Maddy (Katie Coseni)), had been typical male exploitation in and of their lives !
That said, in branding themselves (in more sense than one) Foxfire, they came to stand for a sort of purist attitude towards men that meant that, when - late in the film - Rita (Madeleine Bisson) dated a man and was seen in the cinema with him, it was an expellable act from their commune / refuge. Maybe they had had that stance all along (although initially flirting when buying ice-cream did not seem prohibited, and it was also clear, from some stings,& when the joehad been pitied, not despised). However, Margaret** (Raven Adamson) called her father's girlfriend, who seemed a steady one, a slut, and then one was unsure what was going on - was it a reverse Oedipus complex, where the mother had been loved / sainted / abused, or just a resentment at being landed with grandma, 100 miles away*** ?
(Grandma certainly seems to have been given a tongue-lashing, if we think that Margaret is a reliable historian. In fact, all the hints are that no one can be such in this life, in particular the magic of the closing moment, which surprises and undercuts the narrative. At times, this narration was grating, but I can conceive that it was meant to be, and thus to distance from too close a connection.)
At any rate, without seeming didactic, literary analogues such as Orwell's Animal Farm, and Peter Carey's The True History of the Kelly Gang, are enrichened by the properly shocking story that Foxfire tells...
The Agent’s bit of nit-picking
Was ever a judge and a court scene such as this - but who is telling the story ?
Having a car
Even if it was normal and likely, was it necessary and affordable ?
Margaret upsets and deliberately spoils the expectations against how the letting will be carried out, for her vision of what the shared home will be, but maybe not plausibly to the lessor's agents...
How do the type-written records and they typewriter end up where they do ?
Was everything really accurate for what was said, and where it was said, in its time ?
* Thanks to @MarkOneinFour.
** For unknown reasons, known as Legs (unless as a corny joke to reflect the fact that she was relatively short, whereas one would have thought, if so, that a name that drew attention to 'ideal' female body-image was hardly consistent).
*** Conceivably, Legs might have originated in the fact of her walking from grandma's back to Hammond, after Margaret's father had sought to exile her there... It matters little that the film does not explain, and it is probably a virtue.
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Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)