A Good Woman Is Hard to Find

Sarah (Sarah Bolger, "In America," “Emelie”) has been a single mother of 6 year-old Ben (Rudy Doherty) and 4 year-old Lucy (Macie McCauley) since her husband was murdered three months earlier at their Irish council estate.  The police have told her to ‘let sleeping dogs lie,’ convinced it was a drug deal gone bad, but Sarah knows better, especially as Ben, who hasn’t spoken since, was with his father at the time.  She gets little support from her mom Alice (Jane Brennan, "Brooklyn") who believes police reports and tells her daughter she isn’t aggressive enough, but when local thug Tito (Andrew Simpson) crowds his way into her home one day and decides it is the ideal place to stash his stolen drug wares, the terrified woman decides to play the situation as her own investigation into her husband’s murder in “A Good Woman Is Hard to Find.”

Laura's Review: B+

Written by Ronan Blaney (Oscar nominated short "Boogaloo and Graham") and directed byAbner Pastoll ("Road Games"), “A Good Woman Is Hard to Find” is a terrifically entertaining genre film laced with witty black humor and featuring an uncommonly good performance in a role demanding much of its lead Sarah Bolger.  The woman who starts the film with a fierce maternal instinct yet meek demeanor with men and authority figures makes a startling yet believable transformation that finds her taking on the area’s most dangerous criminal, Leo Miller (Edward Hogg).  While Blaney observes both the ‘rule of threes’ and Chekhov’s gun principle, Pastoll builds tension, adroitly balancing bursts of violence with anxiety releasing jolts of humor.  All this and the film also turns out to be a mother/daughter story just in time for Mother’s Day.  

The film opens with one of those two-thirds-of-the-way-through flash forwards depicting a shaken Sarah covered with blood, before transporting us into the more everyday of a mom grocery shopping with two small children in tow.  When a seemingly friendly supermarket worker name-tagged Jimmy (Sean Sloan) points out that Ben has gotten into the candy, Sarah thanks him, only to be dogged all the way to the check-out to ensure she pays for the item, causing her to have to return something else.  (Jimmy will get creepier but will also be the subject of the film’s humorously satisfying coda.)

Tito is something else altogether, a coarse product of his environment combined with his own ideas of gallantry once he sees how pretty Sarah can be in an old photograph.  Sarah wants nothing to do with his drug running, but he insists on giving her a cut, showing up at odd times demanding to be let in.  Coaxed, he remembers Stephen, then drops the name Leo Miller which Sarah obviously recognizes.  But when Sarah indulges in some wine one night and checks out his stash behind a bathroom tile, she leaves it slightly open.  Ben finds it.  Tito uses the situation to advance his woo with rape and Sarah fights him off too well.           

The writer and director get away with some pretty preposterous turns of events by carefully laying their groundwork.  When Lucy repeats her mother, letting the word ‘bitch’ slip in response to her grandmother it is funny, but later this propensity will take the plot to a darker place.  After Terry (Caolan Byrne) and Mackers (Packy Lee) pinpoint Tito as Leo’s thief, he declares the man will be ‘cut into little pieces,’ a foreshadowing given with a virtual wink.  The film’s most outrageous idea in making Leo a grammar Nazi is played perfectly by Hogg, whose love of metaphor makes us lean more carefully into the bedtime stories read by Sarah to her children.

But it is Bolger who carries the entire film and she does it beautifully, her heartbreaking situation combined with increasingly fraught trials written in the dark circles beneath her eyes and perpetual frown.  That she becomes a warrior is done via the grit of extreme necessity, the actress visibly shoring herself up before compressing with stress.

Robin's Review: B

Sarah (Sarah Bolger) is a young widow and single mom of two kids who lost her husband to street violence. But, the crime is tagged as a drug deal gone badly by the police and no investigation was made into the murder. It is up to the frightened Sarah to find the killers and bring them to justice in “A Good Woman Is Hard to Find.”

Her son, Ben (Rudy Doherty), who witnessed his father’s violent death, has been mute since that day. But this is not Sarah’s only problem. A local ne’er-do-well, Tito (Andrew Simpson), has ripped off the local drug pushers and stole their sizable stash of narcotics.

He forces his way into Sarah’s apartment to evade the very pissed off bad guys and, unbeknownst to her, hides to stash in her bathroom. He returns and Sarah is too terrified to do anything about it because he threatens her children’s safety. Then, Ben finds the drug cache and things, for Sarah, turn even more desperate.

The story, directed Abner Pastoll and written by Ronan Bailey, is a showcase for Sarah Bolger as the put upon mom. The actress has been working hard at her chosen craft for years, but “A Good Woman…” is the first to give her the showcase to allow her to really shine.

Since Sarah’s loss, her overriding concern is the safety of her kids. When Tito intrudes in their life, Sarah remains passive, until pushed too far. Then, things get primeval for the single mom. What that means is the reason to give “A Good Woman Is Hard to Find” some serious viewing

The filmmakers, in front and behind the camera, have a first-rate understanding on how to build believable and palpable tensions. Sarah, as played by Bolger, is a vulnerable and frightened persona, until her kids are threatened. There is a marvelous arc to the character that keeps you rooting for her all the way through.

The supporting cast does just that: all the players, especially Tito, are fully developed and help make the story an intriguing survival tale with a strong femme vibe.

“A Good Woman Is Hard to Find,” a delightfully on point title, can be found playing at the virtual theaters listed at the bottom of this link as well as VOD on May 8, 2020.