This post includes a brief summary, an analysis and a review of “The Girl in the Book” (2015). Beware of spoilers.
What happens when a young woman is forced to confront her past? This is a question that haunts the protagonist of “The Girl in the Book”. The 2015 drama directed by Marya Cohn stars Emily VanCamp and Ana Mulvoy-Ten as Alice Harvey, and Michael Nyqvist as Milan Daneker, Alice’s former mentor.
“The Girl in the Book” follows a non-linear narrative that gradually reveals a heartbreaking story where its protagonist fights to regain her voice.
Alice Harvey is a young woman who is currently working as an assistant book editor. Writing used to be a passion of hers, but her interest in the craft eventually died down.
At work, she crosses paths with a man who has hurt her immensely in the past, Milan Daneker. The publishing company assigned Alice to promote his latest book. The famous author used to be Alice’s mentor when she was in her teens. However, their mentor-student relationship took a dark turn when Milan made sexual advances towards an underaged Alice.
Although Alice told her parents about Milan’s inappropriate behaviour they ultimately decided to dismiss her accusations against him. These repeated offenses inflicted great damage on Alice, as she is unable to maintain long-term relationships despite having people willing to love her.
The ending of “The Girl in the Book” shows Alice confronting her abuser, Milan, who continues to deny any wrongdoing on his part. After voicing her thoughts about her past, Alice slowly begins to rebuild her life.
In “The Girl in the Book”, power dynamics and abuse are not black-and-white subjects, instead, they are explored in a nuanced manner.
Marya Cohn uses the protagonist’s journey to portray the complex layers of power dynamics and the long-term effects of abuse. Alice Harvey is a survivor and her “messy” lifestyle is a reflection of her past trauma that continues to haunt her.
Alice Harvey and Milan Daneker have a complicated history. It was actually Alice’s father who introduced the two to each other. At the time, Alice had a keen interest in writing and Milan was already an accomplished author. Therefore, it made sense for the parents to have him mentor their child.
What started off as a simple student-mentor relationship quickly became inappropriate. Milan actually took advantage of Alice’s innocence and sexually assaulted her. However, it didn’t happen overnight, it was a gradual process.
Milan essentially groomed and tried to gaslight Alice about what really happened. In reality, an old man preyed on an underage girl and raped her. However, in Milan’s version of the events, he didn’t do anything wrong. The abuser believes his victim “wanted it”.
First of all, Milan’s argument is nonsense because Alice Harvey wasn’t old enough to consent. Second, in the context of power dynamics, he took advantage of his position as a mentor. What Milan did to Alice was a crime in every sense—morally and legally.
Milan eventually moved on with his life, but Alice didn’t. In the present time, Alice is a promiscuous woman who is unable to sustain long-term relationships. Both of these issues stem from Alice’s past trauma and her inability to find closure for what happened.
Milan Daneker wasn’t the only one who betrayed Alice Harvey in “The Girl in the Book”, her parents also let her down. They were negligent in many ways. Not only did the parents fail to protect their daughter from a predator, but they also doubted her words.
Fortunately for Alice, she actually gained some strength to confront her abuser and move on with her life. Milan Daneker is an unscrupulous man who deceived and raped a young girl. Not only that, he also stole her innocence and her artistic work.
“The Girl in the Book” is an engaging tale that explores complex themes such as power dynamics and abuse. There are a couple of strong performances in the film, namely from Ana Mulvoy-Ten and Michael Nyqvist.
Ana Mulvoy-Ten delivers a captivating portrayal of young Alice. She was able to convey innocence and vulnerability to the audience. Michael Nyqvist’s performance is also a highlight. Despite playing the role of a predator, Nyqvist’s performance was very strong. The actor was believable as Milan Daneker, which is both compelling and unsettling.
Nonetheless, Emily VanCamp’s portrayal of adult Alice wasn’t as engaging as the actors’ mentioned previously. Although her performance was fairly decent, it still lacked depth for the audience to actually care about her character.
“The Girl in the Book” is not flawless and the ending was a bit anti-climatic, but overall, it’s still a very interesting watch. Marya Cohn deserves praise for her attempt to illustrate the many layers of sexual abuse. The narrative doesn’t shy away from uncomfortable realities, but the director does it in a “digestible” way for the viewer.