Almost 15 years after his award-winning breakthrough film, La Ciudad, writer/director David Riker once again examines the lives of undocumented immigrants, this time from an unusual point of view: that of a poor, white, single mother. Ashley (Abbie Cornish) is desperate to win back custody of her young son, who is in foster care. After losing her job at an Austin supermarket, she joins her truck-driving father (Will Patton) for a brief road trip and discovers why he suddenly has a wallet full of hundred-dollar bills—he’s a coyote, someone who transports undocumented immigrants across the border for cash. Motivated by the payoff, Ashley decides to become a coyote herself, but, as various characters remind her, she has no idea what she’s doing. After a disastrous river crossing, Ashley is left alone with Rosa (Maritza Santiago Hernandez), a bold, outspoken young girl who refuses to let Ashley abandon her, no matter how hard Ashley tries. The bond between Ashley and Rosa is carefully developed, and Cornish gives a stunning performance, transforming Ashley from a girl who blames her problems on anyone but herself, to a woman who takes responsibility and asks for forgiveness. While the similarities between Ashley and Rosa are often too exaggerated, The Girl is a touching story of a daughter without her mother and a mother without her son, coming together to find what they need.
By Erika W. Smith