Movie Review: A Good Woman is Hard to Find (2019)

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As Sarah (Sarah Bolger) discovers in Abner Pastoll's razor edged new thriller A Good Woman is Hard to Find, sometimes when you grab a vibrator, you really need a knife and other times you find that an axe works so much better than a saw.

A recently widowed mother of two young children whose husband was murdered on the sidewalk outside of their North Ireland housing estate in a shocking crime that has rendered the only living witness — her six-year-old son — mute with fear and anxiety, Sarah tries to keep her head down and focus on what's directly in front of her at all times.

Faced with a series of dead-ends from grocery bills she can barely afford to authorities who try to convince her that her husband was a drug dealer instead of an innocent victim, her problems collide head-on when Tito (Andrew Simpson), a low level dealer, rips off a notorious local gangster and forces himself inside her apartment.

Using her bathroom to stash the dope he'd just stolen, he threatens the frightened young mother into compliance, saying he'll give her a cut of whatever he sells as long as he can keep the gear there. Not the type of woman to go to the police, especially when they're already suspicious about her husband and that could lead directly to social services, Sarah stays quiet, and enjoys one carefree day of grocery shopping before reality sets in at night when Tito returns and a shocking confrontation results in the foul play alluded to in the film's opening scene.

Using the building blocks of a "caught between a rock and a hard place" neo-noir, where screenwriter Ronan Blaney's economical storytelling reveals only what we must know to move from one scene to the next, A Good Woman is Hard to Find plays a lot like Nicolas Winding Refn's Pusher trilogy . . . if the women in the series were given more to do than play strippers or whores.

Vibrating on a frequency that pitches out from the speakers and straight into your chest, Matthew Pusti's driving techno throb of a score takes the Refn homage even further as certain sequences — including the one where Tito stages his big snatch and grab by car — feel like they could've been scored by frequent Refn composer Cliff Martinez.

More than just a tribute, however, the soundtrack enhances the film's clever visual motif. Balancing its docudrama style lensing by day with the more lurid, glossily red and dark tone filled hues of cinematographer Richard C. Bell's camera at night, which gives the film its own brutal yet vulnerable glow, we watch Sarah try to navigate the increasingly hazardous situation she's in with her wits or whatever weapon she can get her hands on before it's too late. And though it is not for the faint of heart, Pastoll's searing thriller transcends the easy exploitative side of the genre, thanks to a courageously controlled turn by Bolger.

Believably underplaying her reactions like a mom trying not to alarm her children into thinking they need to try to solve a problem she's still trying to figure out, as she moves from vibrator to knife to axe to saw, it's easy to predict that when Andrew Simpson or Edward Hogg's pushers come to shove, this is one Good Woman who won't go gently into that good night.

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