LAAPFF 2021 REVIEW: ‘The Girl Who Left Home’ (2020) is a Heartwarming Musical Where Conflicts are Left Unresolved

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Girl Who Left Home’ teaches the values of loving children unconditionally and pushing loved ones to pursue something they want to do.

Mallorie Ortega’s directorial debut The Girl Who Left Home is a whimsical musical-dramedy that revolves around Christine (Haven Everly), a young woman who wants to follow the Hollywood dream. She leaves home against the wishes of her family when she gets the chance to take part in a theatre production. After spending 10 months in Los Angeles, her life turns upside down when her father dies suddenly and she leaves to attend his funeral. Christine returns to her home in Maryland and tries to patch things up with her mother Mary (Emy Coligado). Meanwhile, she learns that the family restaurant is in trouble and decides to stay back and help her mother get it back on track. Christine’s desire to get back on stage lingers in her body but she insists on staying, even when her agent tells her to come back to Los Angeles, or else she might lose her chance to make it in Hollywood. 

The Girl Who Left Home tackles the complexities of a young woman dealing with the problems of life, career, family, and past relationships and friendships. In the opening number of the film, Christine sings and dances on stage about how she wants to make it big in Hollywood but is unsure of her future as her opportunities become slim. She goes through audition after audition and getting rejected makes her feel depressed. When she finally lands a role in a play, she dances and sings merrily, excited over what this opportunity will be for her career. The musical numbers vary, from choreographed sequences with a big ensemble to quiet and melodious as her mother pleads with her to go to Los Angeles and follow her dreams. In the end, Ortega wants the audience to understand that sometimes you must make sacrifices for the people you love the most.

Two young Asian girls sit at a funeral while looking at something. The girl on the right is out of focus, and the girl on the left has short dark hair and a white striped top. White flowers can be seen in the background.
Image courtesy of Nanay Ko Production

What makes The Girl Who Left Home wonderful is that Ortega lets the songs breathe throughout the film. Even though the film is a musical, Ortega doesn’t try to make the songs the lynchpin of the narrative. When Christine and Emy are patching things up between them, their conversations are actual dialogue, not performed in a musical number. The breakout star is Everly, who takes the role and fully engages herself in every performance. Her voice dominates the musical sequences and brings the film to life. As for Coligado, she gives a splendid performance. In a scene where Mary, Christian and her best friend Megan (Lora Nicolas) go to a karaoke bar, Mary takes the stage and performs “Hand In Hand,” singing her heart out. It’s an emotional moment as she sings to her daughter in the crowd. The performance given by the mother-daughter duo is equally brilliant. 

However, The Girl Who Left Home has a few problems with the narrative and conflicts. Christine left due to a spat between her father, who didn’t approve of her boyfriend, John (Rafael Sebastian). He moves on and dates Christine’s best friend Amy (Justine ‘Icy” Moral). This upsets her and she runs away from home, declaring that running a restaurant and being a chef was her parent’s dream. When she comes back home, after a year, she is unable to face John and Amy and gets severe panic attacks due to the trauma from the breakup. When Christine realises that John and Amy are engaged, she doesn’t try to resolve the issue; it upsets her further. By the end of the film, it doesn’t seem like Christine’s relationship with her estranged best friend is resolved. These minor issues with the story make it feel like the film, especially Christine’s character arc, is underdeveloped. These problems cannot be ignored and downplay Christine’s growth as someone who learns to let go of issues from her past. 

The Girl Who Left Home teaches the values of loving children unconditionally and pushing loved ones to pursue something they want to do, rather than to make somebody else happy. It’s about gain, loss and fighting for what you believe in and chasing dreams. Christine’s story will pull some strings and may leave viewers weeping, at times, regardless of the predictable ending.

Dir: Mallorie Ortega

Prod: Nanay Ko Production

Cast: Haven Everly, Emy Coligado, Lora Nicolas

Release: 2021