“Girl Flu” is one of the many films screened at the 25th annual Heartland Film Festival. Being the second film I’ve seen at the festival so far, was it a better experience than “The Adventure Club?” The short answer: yes.
The film centers around a girl named Robin (she goes by “Bird”) as she finishes school and experiences her first period. Not knowing anything about a period, she reaches out to her mother to seek out some answers.
Bird’s mom, Jenny, is a very flawed mother as she smokes pot and drinks, among other irresponsible activities. As the film goes on, Bird tries to cope with her first period as well as what it means to grow up.
This is a type of story that I’ve honestly never been told before. Yes, there are lots of coming-of-age stories out there, but none like this. Usually, stories revolving around young children go over issues like moving away or having their first crush. While those stories are well done and interesting to look at, it’s refreshing to see a movie discuss something this mature, especially for a family film (which is what this movie is categorized under).
The acting is also worth noting. Jade Pettyjohn plays Bird in the film and is fantastic. She’s able to show the growth of her character going from a young girl playing with her dolls to a young woman trying to figure out more mature topics. She also has to portray issues that most girls go through in situations like periods, and it’s played for both good laughs and strong drama.
She is without a doubt the best part of the film and is a great example of what child actors are capable of. Hopefully she finds more work for herself to become a bigger name in the industry because she really deserves it.
The rest of the cast are good as well. Everyone makes their characters likable and work well with Pettyjohn’s character for some very entertaining scenes, a good example being Bird and Arlo (Jeremy Sisto), Jenny’s boyfriend, in the park where Bird encounters a bully that picks on her.
While a lot of the film excels in some elements, one aspect of it keeps it from being a great film: the mother. The actress playing her, Katee Sackoff, does her best in terms of acting, but she plays one of the worst mother characters ever.
She’s annoying. She’s ignorant. She’s immature. She is everything a mother should not be. There is so much sympathy for Bird throughout the whole movie because she has to deal with her mother all the time, and it gets frustrating quick.
She does have her “redeeming” moment in the film, but it doesn’t matter. Viewers want a character to redeem themselves because they are so likable and want them to overcome their problems, but that feeling is not present for her. There’s a moment in the film where she just drops Bird off somewhere and then leaves. How the mother “redeems” herself wasn’t much effort as all she does is basically say sorry.
There’s also a couple more issues concerning the film. While the film does dive into Bird’s problems well, it could’ve gone a bit deeper because a lot of time is devoted to subplots that don’t really need to have so much attention (a lot being around the mother). It would’ve been better if there was more time for Bird and Carlos, a boy she has a crush on, because their scenes together are very genuine.
Several scenes didn’t do anything to the overall story. There’s a scene where the mother takes Bird to a party where a bunch of women celebrate her having her first period. I really didn’t understand the scene at all as the women just made Bird do a bunch of unnecessary things for no reason. There was nothing there to move the plot forward and was just bizarre.
Even with those issues being present in the film, I still really enjoyed “Girl Flu.” I had no idea what it was going to be about, and I think it was for the better. It was a nice surprise to learn what the story was structured around going in blind.
With a fascinating topic and a fantastic lead, “Girl Flu” is worth a watch at this year’s Heartland Film Festival.