DRAMA; 1hr 46min
STARRING: Madison Wolfe, Zoe Saldana, Imogen Poots, Sydney Wade
Stormy weather: Wolfe
Barbara Thorson (Wolfe) is a slayer of giants. In her downtime, she’s also a lonely, precocious, school-bullied 12-year-old with what is arguably an active imagination as an elaborate defence mechanism. Then again, anyone waging war on massive entities would be prickly and evasive, as Barbara’s preternaturally patient school psychologist, Mrs Mollé (Saldana), discovers when she attempts to encourage the wary tweenager to open up.
She does have one sweet-natured friend (Wade as Sophia), but Barbara is way too disturbed for anyone’s comfort, with her extensive web of baits and snares, her owlish obsession with mythically rendered, Pan’s Labyrinth–ine creatures only she can see and the escalating chaos in her head. Something cataclysmic has happened to put her on this path, and for the most part, it’s up to the audience to puzzle out what it might be. Where are her parents? Why is her elder sister, Karen (Poots), with whom Barbara shares a gloomy, coastal New Jersey house, so very wrung-out?
Danish director Anders Walter and screenwriter Joe Kelly’s adaptation of Kelly and J.M. Ken Niimura’s graphic novel isn’t doling out any clues along the way, and nor does it need to. Whatever Barbara is fighting in the sunless woods around her home is plainly more powerful than anything she can conjure up. Meanwhile, Wolfe is the glue that holds together the smoke and mirrors of Barbara’s crumbling equilibrium. One misstep and a fraught performance is a parody. Yet her fierce conviction never burns itself out, even when hell is finally unleashed and Barbara takes the measure of the warrior she is.