Capturing a ’70s feel, Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl is the latest effort from writer/director A.D. Calvo, and he pulls off an impressive feature. The gothic thriller follows Adele (Erin Wilhelmi), who moves into the large home of her aunt Dora (Susan Kellermann). Adele’s family has ulterior motives, as Dora is quite rich and rather old. Adele simply wants to help her aunt, who never leaves her room and communicates by sending notes under the door. Adele soon meets Beth (Quinn Shephard), the complete opposite of Adele’s shy and quiet personality. They strike up a friendship and Beth begins pushing Adele to open up, as well as enticing her to test her own moral limits.
Calvo does a lot with a very simple concept, and there’s really not much more to Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl than the relationship between the two young women, but that’s what makes it so spectacular. Wilhelmi and Shephard are both outstanding in their roles, although it’s Wilhelmi who gets to stretch her talents a little more. Her slow progression from a very shy and introverted girl into a more outgoing, open, sexually free woman is a treat to watch. Shephard, on the other hand, has the difficult task of essentially being both enticing and terrifying at the same time. From the moment she hits the screen, you can tell that she’ll be nothing but trouble, but you’re never quite sure to what extent.
While the performances are outstanding, which helps since the film relies mainly on the two actresses, it does suffer from one problem. At first, Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl is strictly performance driven, intellectual horror. Towards the end, a large dose of supernatural happenings start to occur. It’s as if the film becomes two separate things. Each of these styles work so well, but I would have actually enjoyed the supernatural aspects a little more. It’s really a personal preference thing, and while neither section makes the other less impressive, it just feels like it would have been a bit more enjoyable had they been blended together the entire time, or if one had been the focus.
That’s really a small problem, especially when each element works so well. It’s also less important due to the work of Wilhelmi and Shephard. They’re really the reason to watch Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl, and outside of those two actresses, there’s barely anybody else to watch. Kellermann stays trapped behind a door, only appearing in glimpses here and there, and other characters get very little screen time. Perhaps even more interesting is the almost total lack of male characters. I actually had to think back to remember if any of them really spoke at all. They do, in tiny moments, but their presence is so limited and small that you’ll never notice they’re there. This is the tale of Adele, and her experiences, and nothing gets in the way of that.
The film also looks fantastic. It does have a ’70s vibe to it, but it’s almost impossible to pin down a time frame for the film. It kind of exists outside of any period, which actually throws off your perception of the events. Without being able to definitely agree on a specific year, it’s hard to decide if the film is telling a story that is happening, or has happened. It’s a dream that slowly becomes a nightmare, and viewers are swept along. Some talk has been made of the rather abrupt ending, but in hindsight, that only adds to the feeling of a dream. We’re suddenly awakened from the film, as if we’ve jolted upright in bed, sweat soaking the sheets around us. You may be left wanting more, but isn’t that what every great film should leave you feeling?