Imitation Girl (2017) [Philadelphia Unnamed Film Festival 2017]

A being falls to Earth and copies the first image of a human it sees.  Living as this girl, she starts learning about family, love, and life.  As she does, the girl she has copied lives her life in New York, working in the adult industries and slowly losing herself.  As their lives evolve, their meeting is unavoidable and may bring them more than they expect.

Written and directed by Natasha Kermani, Imitation Girl is a film about life, what makes life worth living, and how each person’s life can be widely different based on decisions and circumstances.  The film does this in a beautiful, almost lyrical way, going back and forth between both versions of this girl.  The newer one, the alien life form is innocent like a young child and opened to happiness and beauty in life.  The human girl has lost her illusions, her dreams, and is just going through life doing what she can to survive and try to find a connection.  One just lets things happen naturally while the other all she can to get things to go better for herself, yet the first gets the easiest happiness while the second not so much.  The film is all about the ways life can differ, how these ways affect people long and short terms.  The exploration of life here and what makes one happy is what makes the film so fascinating and not the alien landing on her or the bits of porn shoots involved.

Playing both girls, actress Lauren Ashley Carter gives a nuanced pair of performances.  She manages to create two completely different characters in one movie, with clear personalities and mannerisms for each.  Her performances ground the film in two ways, making the impact of the story and themes felt much more strongly.  Her performances carry the film and the themes while also giving insight in both characters in each their own way.  She plays innocent, vulnerable as well as world-weary, hard-living perfectly here.  Other stand-out performances are Neimah Djourabchi as Saghi, the man who takes the imitation girl in and helps her discover life.  His presence is strong, yet subtle, he teaches her softly, without pushing or probing.  He shows that part of society will just accept you as you are.  Playing his sister Khahar is Sanam Erfani who gives is subtle, strong performance.  She gives the imitation girl an example of a strong, powerful, yet caring woman who takes care of those around her while being her own self.  Erfani works this character beautifully and is mesmerizing as she does so.  A few others also give very interesting performances with no one being off or off-putting, giving the film a strong ensemble.

The film establishes two different looks for each of the girls.  The nice south western countryside gives a good background for the innocence, the new growth, while the city, New York City in particular, gives a grimy yet hopeful background for the porn actress wanting out.  The film works both locations at the same time, in contrast but also as complement to each other.  The cinematography by Travis Tips gives both of these locations their own look while making them complement each other.  His work is masterful and gives both locations their own identity and beauty.

Imitation Girl shows a dichotomy between the innocent girl and the porn star that she is emulating in terms of looks.  It also is a strong take on how the world around us and circumstances can change how one evolved while dealing with duality and becoming one with one’s self.  The film has many strong themes that come across easily through a sad and melancholy story on one side and an innocent and open story on the other.  The film takes its time to establish the characters and how life has impacted them, it shows more without dictating any of it, and has a big impact this way.  The ending is interesting and opened to interpretation, which works perfectly for this film that does not tell which life is better, just that everyone has options and each option will lead to a different ending, but not a different person.

Imitation Girl is playing at the Philadelphia Unnamed Film Festival on Thursday, September 28th. Tickets can be purchased at https://filmfreeway.com/festival/PhiladelphiaUnnamedFilmFestival/tickets