How To Build A Girl: The BRWC Review – A heartwarming, British coming-of-age story that deals with class, body positivity, and succeeding as a young woman in a man’s world.
Beanie Feldstein and Alfie Allen dazzle in this story about 16-year-old Johanna from Wolverhampton, and her ascent as a writer. Starting out as a music journalist and the only female on her team, we see how she is underestimated, and attempts are made to sexually exploit and body shame her. Additionally, the film gives insight into the classism prevalent in Britain, and illustrates the obstacles to success for someone form a working-class background. This is in opposition to the “Posh” “Cambridge” boys, shown as the gatekeepers in London.
It is so satisfying to watch, that with all of the hurdles she faces, Johanna holds on to her self-belief and heart of gold. And despite her family’s messy appearances, they are inevitably what grounds her.
The only criticism I had would be Feldstein’s accent, and the fact that she’s not a native Wolverhampton, or British, actress. I noticed during the beginning voiceover, that Feldstein’s accent sounded a bit forced and unnatural. I wasn’t surprised to find out she is indeed American. However, the accent was far from terrible and I soon forgot as I became entranced with the storyline, and Feldstein herself. It is sometimes nice, in homegrown films, to bring fame to a local actor who has almost lived the character’s experience. Then again, Feldstein was so enchanting, grounded, intelligent, and loveable that perhaps there was no one else who could have played this role.
I also wasn’t sure about the breaking of the 4th wall in the last scene, surely we could have seen Johanna express her thoughts through her writing, but I know this device is a bit a of a Fleabag fad at the moment.
For fans of Almost Famous like myself, you will love this female-led retelling, with parallels to An Education. A classic coming-of-age tale that is raw and gritty, synonymous with traditional British filmmaking. As much as this film is enjoyable and feel-good, it is also important and socially and politically insightful. The story feels honest and true and I was not surprised to find it is semi-autobiographical of screenplay/novel writer, Caitlin Moran.
There are many beloved English actors playing funny and endearing characters throughout the film, including Paddy Considine and Emma Thompson. Music lovers will adore the rock n roll soundtrack, and fashion lovers will enjoy the 90’s nostalgia. There is a lot to love about How to Build a Girl, and it comes with a very high recommendation from me.
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