Nicolas Gessner’s madly titled The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane may well be the darkest coming-of-age story to have ever been made. No wonder that 14-year-old Jodie Foster was given the lead role of Rynn, and no wonder Martin Sheen was put somewhere in there too – with the mere task of making her life that little bit harder every time he visits. Writer Laird Koenig adapts his own book and comes up with a screenplay that is as close as we could ever get to a mystery novel. His enigmatic characters and their eccentric aura are transferred from page to screen intact – the writer seems to have compromised none of his original ideas and to have kept the atmosphere of his story exactly the same. Hilariously dark and different to any other coming-of-age mystery thriller I’ve had the chance to see, The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane might well make up its very own genre.
The dialogue we’re exposed to here is so 1970s, that very soon after the film begins, it becomes obvious that The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane could have not been written, read or filmed during any other time. There is only one decade that will allow for this kind of quirky individual, dry sarcasm and underlying insanity, and it’s the time that brought us Badlands, Harold and Maude, What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice?, and The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, among so many wild others – the ‘70s. In the 1970s − as well as in The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane − madness seems to be all around, and murder is not so much a crime, as a fun fact; a dirty little secret, if you will. And even a necessity at times.
A great little touch in The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane is that we never get to meet the person behind this master plan – the real hero of the story. Rynn’s father seems to have orchestrated it all before walking out of the house and into the unknown. Now, little Rynn has a nice home, money to get by indefinitely, a decent sized yard to bury the bodies of those who bother her, and a secure strategy to carry on living freely, as though her poet father was indeed in his study working; translating some Russian poetry or smoking his pipe. Laird Koenig’s story begins after its protagonist dies – leaving his daughter in charge of continuing his tale and telling it, in her very own, special way.
Watch the trailer for The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane here: