This afternoon, The Milwaukee Film Festival has its final screening of “A Girl Like Grace” as part of its Black Lens Program. “A Girl Like Grace” is a coming-of-age drama about a girl who struggles down a road of self-discovery while coping with her best friend’s suicide. “A Girl Like Grace” runs today at 3:45 at The Oriental Theater.
First and foremost, lead actress Ryan Destiny merits unending praise in her breakthrough role as Grace. It’s hard to believe that this is Destiny’s first film, as she seems to take on such a complex role so effortlessly. What’s even more incredible is that the filmmakers found and cast Destiny only 72 hours before they began filming. Grace begins as a reserved, traumatized girl and takes a journey of self-discovery that molds her into a completely different person that’s both incredible and, at times, disturbing to watch.
Raven-Symoné plays her darkest, most complex role to date as the leader of a gang of high school bullies who regularly terrorize Grace and whoever doesn’t fit the mold. She has a moment or two where she has some funny banter between her friends while still maintaining her harsh, intimidating nature. However, her overall performance is one that sheds new light on her abilities as an actress.
“A Girl Like Grace” is much more than a high school drama about a girl and a group of bullies, however. The amount of material covered over the course of 115 minutes is nothing short of amazing. It’s incredibly well-paced and time seems to fly as the audience engages in Grace’s subconscious, fantasies, memories, and real-life struggles. Grace truly goes on a journey comprised of major changes that keep the audience on their toes.
Grace’s story is one that’s important to watch, especially for high school kids struggling with their identity, adversity, and social pressures. However, it’s also extremely difficult to watch at times. “A Girl Like Grace” deals with serious issues for anyone, and it may not be something that all high school students, or even adults, may be able to watch, depending on their history. The core of this issue is that “A Girl Like Grace” is a high school movie made by adults, so it falls in a grey area in demographic.
While this grey area makes “A Girl Like Grace” difficult to place and market, it’s still an important film that is artfully put together by Director Ty Hodges. The talented young filmmaker directed, wrote, produced, and acted in this feature film, which was shot in only 13 days. Part of what keeps the film moving so seamlessly and covering so much material is how the scenes are shot and paired with music. For example, the bullies have their own soundtrack whenever they come on screen, making them stand out even more in Grace’s life. Similarly, Grace’s life transitions are mirrored in the very angles and focus of the shots, emphasizing the shifts in her journey to self-discovering even more.
“A Girl Like Grace” is a beautiful coming-of-age drama that has moments of humor, horror, and, above all, clarity as the title character finds herself. The Milwaukee Film Festival has its final screening of the film today, Wednesday, September 30 at 3:45 at The Oriental Theater. Tickets are available online or by visiting the Milwaukee Film Box Office. For more information, please visit the Milwaukee Film webpage.