Sunday Girl 2019 ****

It’s always a breath of fresh air to hail American independent cinema; writer/director/producer Peter Ambrosio makes an accomplished debut with his feature Sunday Girl, a small but perfectly formed anti-romcom which addresses an intensely personal subject; love, and what you have to do when you don’t have enough of it in your life.

After a neat, Saul Bass-inspired title sequence, Sunday Girl follows a feisty protagonist; Natasha (Dasha Nekrasova) has the break-up with a boyfriend. He’s just a poet, and of course, he takes it badly, so no great loss. After some car trouble and an abortive trip to a local petrol station, Natasha arrives at her next destination, another boyfriend, more aggressive this time, and, yes, another break-up. ‘I have a hard time telling people unpleasant things,’ Natasha says, and she’s right. Her unwillingness to articulate painful truths has put her in a spot of bother; now, she’s got to break things off with five different men over the course of a single day.

Breaking up is, as the song goes, hard to do, and it’s not any easier because Natasha has been assiduously avoiding doing so; it becomes apparent that something has changed in her life, and conversations drift back to Valentine’s day, a mystery to unravel. Sunday Girl is a film that largely revolves around conversations: ‘Relationships are unpredictable, that’s what makes them interesting’ offers one character, ‘Maturity is a whole lot of not getting what you want’ is another telling line. But it’s hard for Natasha to say exactly what she wants for relationships; she’s an attractive young woman, with a slew of suitors, but various obstacles get in the way of her finding happiness with any of them.

There’s a touch of She’s Gotta Have It about the premise, but the look and feel of the film is very different from Spike Lee’s debut; instead of a black and white aesthetic, cinematographer John Paul Summers emphasises the bright, picture-book simplicity of Natasha’s Louisiana haunts. Nekrasova makes something sympathetic and real of Natasha’s amative vacillation, while the men in her life are brought to life via a gallery of neat, acidic pen-portraits from Bilal Mir, Dave Davis, Evan Holtzman, Morgan Roberts and Brandon Stacy.

Sunday Girl is an effective industry calling–card for all concerned, but an unexpectedly transformative ending differs in tone from the rest of the film; after inviting the audience to stew in the detailed awkwardness of Natasha’s break-ups, a final coda takes a more poetic turn as she re-evaluates her life while walking in a super-market. There’s a sense of unexpected depth, pathos and magic in these final scenes that elevates Sunday Girl from an accomplished indie to something really worth cheering and celebrating, a warm and caring insight into a distant and yet easily accessible character.

Sunday Girl is in select US theatres from November 8th 2019.


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