God Help the Girl
In the pop song format, Belle and Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch is a deft storyteller, with a couple of stanzas being all that's needed to sketch a compelling tale populated by characters that seem poised to step out of the lyrics and into life. On 2009's God Help the Girl album, Murdoch initiated a larger narrative project, introducing a troubled protagonist named Eve and promising to complete her story with a feature film. Five years on, B&S fans will be relieved to discover that many of the finer qualities of Murdoch’s musical penmanship have found cinematic equivalents: Nouvelle Vague cover-sleeve style, free-spirited charm, self-conscious wit, and so on.
But other aspects are compromised by Murdoch’s inexperience as a screenwriter/director: the more they’re fleshed out, the more clichéd and less interesting his characters and their predicaments become; and with disappointingly few exceptions, the musical numbers are flatly staged (or, in the case of Pretty Eve in the Tub, downright creepy). Nonetheless, it remains winsomely engaging, largely thanks to Emily Browning’s gamine lead performance.