The Girl Who Got Away – 2021

Written and Directed by Michael Morrissey
Starring Lexi Johnson, Kaye Tuckerman, Geoffrey Cantor, Jamie Forbes, Debra Lord Cooke, Teresa Catherine, Auberey Hickerson, Chukwudi Iwuji, Anni Kruger, Willow McCarthy, Ned Van Zandt

The Girl Who Got Away is the kind of film that has aspirations beyond its reach. The tension inherent in its subject matter is story is not matched by the response of the town in what would have been one of the biggest crimes in the history of the state. That it is somewhat a secret enough to hide one of the “victims” in plain sight decades later is astounding to the point of disbelief.

The story starts with a father and child on their way home from a game. Along the dirt road they traverse they first see a disheveled woman (Tuckerman) with blood stains on her nightgown walking down the road with a butcher knife. The kid sees the blood stains and wants his dad to pull over. The dad, seeing the knife, says that they will call the police when they get home. Not more than a quarter mile later, they see a little girl running down the road and the dad understands it’s she who needs to be helped.

Decades later, we find the girl has been revealed to be Christina Bowden (Johnson) and the woman who had persued her as Elizabeth Caulfield. Caulfield is convicted of the kidnap and murder of several girls after killing their parents. Bowden is the lone survivor of all of this death. Now Christina is grown and a functional member of society in the same town, and on the verge of adopting a child (McCarthy) of her own. Her insistence on adopting is to correct the sins of the past.

Before we can say “Halloween,” we discover that Caulfield has escaped a prison transfer and is on the loose. Viewing this on TV, retired Sheriff Gerry Bailey (Van Zandt) gives a call to his successor Jamie Nwosu (Iwuji) to keep an eye on Christina. From here the story takes shape.

Given the town is short on police, Jamie begins watching over Christina at night and they develop somewhat of a relationship. We also begin to see that something deep is still wrong with Christina all these years later. Add to this that many of the people around Christina are now dying one after the other.

The film makes a choice at this point to keep the search for the culprit local and, essentially, quiet from the feds. The rationale behind this is weak, and throws off the rest of the film. We are meant to think that there is no one within the prison system who can connect the dots back to where the escaped prisoner lived, and perhaps understand she may be heading there.

The performances range from good (Iwuji) to Hallmark Channel (Johnson). Most of the townsfolk between are passable enough to allow the viewer to stay with our characters through the inevitable twist of the third act. There are no real jump scares or even surprises that land, but it’s good enough for a person who doesn’t expect much out of a rental.

(** out of *****)

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