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The Girl in the Backseat (2023)

When Sofia (Kika Magalhães) meets Ryan (Chris Marrone) at a bar, she realizes that there is something of a spark between them. When this relationship takes a turn for the worse, Sofia finds herself wrapped up in the daunting world of human trafficking. The Girl in the Backseat is Sofia’s story as she navigates the rocky terrain or a world that seems to be her new home.

It took me a little while to figure out what the story was here. I’m not sure if that’s my fault, or if that’s because the exposition is a little wonky. If I’m being honest, I seem to think it’s a result of me being a little dense–but regardless, I feel that it’s the responsibility of the writer(s) and director(s) to ensure that viewers understand their purpose. If there is some existential meaning behind the film that needs to be discussed, then it’s alright to leave viewers in the dark–but the story itself should be made abundantly clear. By about the halfway mark of The Girl in the Backseat I think viewers finally fully understand what is happening–and then we are able to fully buy into the premise of the film.

To be clear, I don’t think that the issue with the exposition hinders the film significantly, and that’s a result of all of the other wonderful things that happen up to the halfway point. There’s always something intense present in The Girl in the Backseat, and that exists even in the moments when I wasn’t quite sure what was happening. Whether it’s through Sofia and Ryan’s interactions, the darkness that fills the screen, or something else entirely, Director Nick Laurent always finds a way to develop intensity and unease. I watched The Girl in the Backseat on my laptop, and I constantly found myself getting closer and closer in order to make sure I didn’t miss anything–because almost immediately I understood that there was an artistic aspect to this film that would likely transcend its entirety.

The Girl in the Backseat starts off loud, with Sofia screaming and banging in the back of a car. It’s like a shock to the system to go from complete silence to spine-tingling screams–and this just might be the best part of the entire film. Viewers are introduced to the tone of the film in the first few seconds, and from that moment forward they are wrapped up in the film, playing along, trying to figure out what happens next. The Girl in the Backseat relies heavily on it being able to entice viewers through scare tactics and unease–and those things do a wonderful job of existing right at the front of the film from beginning to end. Never does The Girl in the Backseat relent in this regard–always managing to up the ante and intensify as the film progresses.

The chemistry between Magalhães and Marrone really impressed me. Aesthetically they don’t necessarily work together, even though they fit very nicely into their roles within the film. Just looking at them together, I’m not sure that viewers would have been able to buy in, to accept them at face value–and they had to do more in order to grab ahold of their viewers. The Girl in the Backseat, while focusing primarily on human trafficking, follows Sofia and Ryan’s journey together–and without them being as brilliant as they are, I’m not sure that the film works. They do a beautiful job of playing off of one another, of feeding off of the other’s emotion, and bringing this riveting story to life.

The Girl in the Backseat is exciting. That seems like a weird thing to say about a film about human trafficking–but it’s true of it as a film. Technically the film is incredibly sound, finding new ways throughout its course to entice and entertain viewers, and the chemistry between Marrone and Magalhães is just stellar. The story is a hard pill to swallow, but it seems accurate–and it’s depicted in a way that, by the film’s conclusion, everyone will have an understanding of the horrible things that happen to those plagued by human trafficking. The Girl in the Backseat is a powerful film about something that isn’t talked about enough. In that sense the film is stunning, and as a film it is equally so.

Directed by Nick Laurent.

Written by Kika Magalhães & Chris Marrone.

Starring Kika Magalhães, Chris Marrone, Jasmine Akakpo, Helen Day, Travis Quentin, etc.




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