Review by Dan Skip Allen
I've seen a lot of films where a father has to mentor a child in the wilderness and life. The Girl on the Mountain has a few twists that make it more than the typical mentor/mentee story. Throw in an abusive father figure, and you have a different kind of film. Even with the plot twists, the film has a heart that makes it stand up among the rest.
Jack Ward (Daniel O'Reilly) is a man that used to live a different life but is now living in the wilderness as a backwoodsman. He's about to end it all until he sees a little girl, Aria (Makenzie Sconce), rummaging through his bag for food. It turns out she is mute and running away from an abusive father. Ward vows to take care of the young girl if it's the last thing he does.
This film has the vibes of First Blood starring Sylvester Stallone and Leave No Trace starring Thomasin Makenzie and Ben Foster. The main character's back story is a focus because we, as the viewers, need to know his motivations going forward in the film. Why must he do what he's doing to try to take care of this young girl? It means everything to him.
This film has a beautiful setting amongst the mountains of the Sierra Nevadas. The mountains, woods, and streams are all brought to life very vividly by Matt Sconce, the director. This was the perfect setting for this survival film to contrast the ugly nature of the story during the movie. Sconce does a nice job in this regard.
Anthony Clark made the music for the film, and it lends itself to the story as a whole, seeing as part of the backstory of the lead character is musical. Clark blends the film's score with the classical music played by the orchestra conducted by the lead character in flashbacks. The contrasting musical choices work very well with the overall nature of the film.
One bad element of the film is the acting. These actors, including the lead, aren't very good at getting the dialogue across on film very well. They are emotional, but I feel it's just not realistic to the story being told. These aren't very good performances, perhaps because it's a lower-budget film and they are trying to save money. The performance from everybody dragged the film down.
The Girl on the Mountain could have been much better acted out by the entire cast. The direction is very competent by Matt Sconce. He sets the film in a very beautiful part of the country, which brings out the survival aspects of the film. We've seen elements of this type of survival story and mentor/mentee story before. It's nothing new. In better hands, this might have been a great film. Instead, it's another run-of-the-mill film.
The Girl on the Mountain hits theaters and VOD on March 11.