A lack of clarity distracts – Ladyworld (London Film Festival Review)

Rating:

There are some stories that need to be told. From the urgency the writer creates dialogue, from the vivid tone of the film, from the atmosphere of the film and so. There are also some stories that don’t need to be told, or rather aren’t sure whether they are a story or not. Ladyworld is such a film.

After a literal Earth shattering event, resulting in a house being buried underground, eight teenage girls are left trapped. With limited amount of food and no water, no electricity and little hope, they fend for themselves. Descending into chaos, they all start to lose their minds.

Usually a film with eight female protagonists would be something to celebrate but instead of a story with great characters, we are treated to a serious lack of plot and characters that don’t seem to know what they’re doing, playing up to one adjective and nothing else. The girls at first try to create order and simple rules to stay alive, voting a leader, Olivia, who suggests that they keep the phone batteries going, check the fuse box regularly and find water. None of this happens as another girl, Piper, the very obvious antagonist from the start, thwarts these rules in favour of ridiculous speeches, war paint (bad makeup) and making her followers do whatever she says. The groups are clear and its rather predictable what will happen next, in a general sense. The groups claim a room each, Piper’s crazy faction getting worse by the minute, while Olivia’s group, the sensible Blake and the hysterical Dolly who is VERY attached to her doll, camp out in the living room, patiently waiting. The hysteria heightens every time one of the girls claims to have seen the ‘man’ in the house. At first it seems like the ‘man’ is a delusion, later tactic but the answer is revealed near the end and seems anticlimactic.

Taking place in one location, the house the girls are trapped in, it’s not quite clear why. The house looks barely lived in, apart from furniture and a few pieces of art on the wall. It is assumed they are all there for a party, a birthday for Eden, who mysteriously disappears near the start after saying she saw the ‘man’. But as not all the girls seem to know each other, its frustratingly unclear how they ended up there. The lack of clarity distracts from whatever the story is with these girls, who later say they are women with Piper leading a disturbing song ‘Ladies of the Canyon’, but they act like crazed children. While the rest of the girls harp on their basic characters, only Ariela Barer as Olivia feels like she is actually playing a character that is more than two dimensional. She is the realistic one of the group but when even she starts to let the cabin fever set in, its believable and actually really stressful.

Directed and co-written by Amanda Kramer, it would be interesting to know what Kramer was aiming for or what she was hoping to portray with Ladyworld. One way to look at this film is as very loose interpretations Lord of the Flies but this is a thin analysis of a film that just shows the worst of girls. It could be taken as damaging portrayal of young women, reducing us, them to nasty and incapable of surviving without help. I’m hoping that there is a method behind the madness, but there is a fear that this would not be obvious to everyone.

Dir: Amanda Kramer

Prd: Thomas R. Burke, Leal Naim, Jamie Dolan, Amanda Kramer

Scr: Amanda Kramer, Benjamin Shearn

Cast: Ariela Barer, Annalise Basso, Maya Hawke, Ryan Simpkins

DoP: Patrick Meade Jones

Music: Callie Ryan

Country: USA

Year: 2018

Running time: 93 minutes