Set in Northern Ireland, with a premise of there’s only so much one woman can take, A Good Woman Is Hard to Find follows Sarah (Sarah Bolger), a recently widowed young mother who will go to great lengths to protect her two children. Her son Ben witnessed his father get stabbed to death on their estate, which has rendered him mute, and the police believe Sarah’s husband was a drug dealer and refuse to investigate his murder further: a disagreement between criminals is not their problem.
The opening of A Good Woman Is Hard to Find tells us more about Sarah’s tough situation. She wanders around a supermarket with her two children, Ben and Lucy, clutching a notepad with a set amount of money she can spend, right down to the penny. But when a staff member catches Ben eating some chocolate that was unaccounted for, she ends up being unable to pay, and the staff assumes she’s making ends meet as a prostitute. In reality, Sarah has been hit hard by the unemployment crisis and her husband’s tragic death.
Just when she thinks things can’t get any worse, drug dealer Tito (Andrew Simpson) bursts into her home to hide from local kingpin Leo (Edward Hogg) and also stashes stolen drugs in her home. Tito says he’ll give her a cut of the money he makes and threatens her into submission when she refuses. He then has the nerve to tell her she could be more hospitable, even though he’s the one who broke into her home and scared her children. Living in a rough working-class neighborhood full of crime sure takes its toll on Sarah.
Written and directed by men (Ronan Blaney and Abner Pastoll), it’s impressive just how accurately A Good Woman Is Hard to Find portrays the female experience. Throughout the film, Sarah is demeaned by almost everyone she interacts with – including her own affluent and judgmental mother. “If you want to get somewhere in life, you have to be a bit of a bitch” she tells her, instead of “sitting there like a pudding.” After Tito becomes a big problem for her, Sarah eventually does become a bit of a bitch as she stands up for herself, and does what she has to do to protect her children.
From meek to powerful, Sarah’s transformation is rewarding to watch. In the beginning, she had dark circles under her eyes, unkempt hair and was wound tightly with rage – she’s a woman on the edge, trying to keep everything together. But by the end, Sarah faces the reality of her husband’s murder, gets revenge and shows off her confidence as she dons red lipstick and hoop earrings – an ultimate sign of strength for her. A Good Woman Is Hard to Find‘s only weaknesses include some bad dialogue and a kingpin villain obsessed with similes, metaphors and philosophical quotes, which, while unique, doesn’t quite work. But hey, at least it’s memorable.
A Good Woman Is Hard to Find is a simple, gritty, crime thriller that feels reminiscent of the works of filmmakers like Ken Loach. Despite its themes of crime and violence, the film remains realistic and grounded in reality. Sarah’s descent into horror happens in a quiet but emotional manner as incidents keep building on top of her. The biggest ones happen suddenly, leaving Sarah with only moments to act. As a contemporary social horror, A Good Woman Is Hard to Find makes its point boldly: a good woman is hard to find because women are expected to put up with a lot of shit.
A Good Woman Is Hard to Find comes to UK cinemas and digital on October 25th.