“It’s impossible for this not to be super personal and in some ways autobiographical,” states London-based filmmaker Lily Rose Thomas on her latest short Girls Who Drink. “I grew up with an alcoholic parent (who is now sober) and so a huge magnifying glass has always been put on my own drinking. From a young age, I was aware of when drinking could turn bad and so I am hyper-aware of the way my own relationship with it can be being dysfunctional. This is something that I’ve always wanted to explore more.”
Told through three interwoven narratives, Girls Who Drink does exactly that. Across eight minutes, we follow Lauren, Kate and Sarah on a night of drinking; three women who have complicated relationships with the substance. Starting out claustrophobic and chaotic, both the film’s edit and sound design mimic a loss of self-restraint. As each girl’s night plays out separately – although in tandem in the film –they experience the euphoria of alcohol, before suffering painfully for it the next day. “There’s a juxtaposition between the way their performances become freer but we perceive them as increasingly out of control,” adds Lily.
It’s the normality of each girl’s experience, however, which is at the centre of the film. Lauren, who we watch consume a bottle of wine while home alone, “is drinking because she is really lonely, and drinking makes her feel like there is someone else there with her; but her loneliness becomes even more apparent in the morning.” Kate – the girl at the party – embodies the juxtaposition between who you think you are when you are drunk, and who you really are. “I asked people the worst things they’d heard drunk people say at parties and we used these as parts of Kate’s dialogue,” Lily explains. It’s these words which haunt Kate the following day, moving her to tears from embarrassment. And Sarah, who we watch come out of her shell after a glass or two, “represents the euphoric joy of knowing you are about to get that release, and how for her it’s more important than socialising, and then the blankness of the hangover and literally needing to block everything out underwater.”
While exploring these narratives, Lily hopes to challenge our lax attitudes towards alcohol dependency and abuse. “There are strong stereotypes of what an alcoholic looks like in the media and so this film aims to challenge that,” Lily outlines. “Apparently the younger generation isn’t drinking, but from my experience problem drinking is so normalised – it’s completely acceptable to have got drunk, blacked out, passed out… On the whole, it’s more acceptable than not drinking at all.” Through depicting such sensitive stories, Girls Who Drink challenges the stereotype of the “alcoholic swigging from a bottle of vodka on a park bench, or the kind of rock bottom where you have to have lost everything – these are of course both completely valid experiences, but I think our perception of what an alcoholic can look like needs to change. It can be subtle and insidious,” she continues.
Girls Who Drink’s communicative abilities are ultimately thanks to the tone Lily has established. In both the chaotic and silent scenes, a sadness lingers. This is largely in part to the choice of music: Happiness by Molly Drake, Nick Drake’s mother. “Her music is beautiful but so tinged with sadness – as soon as I heard this song I knew it would be perfect for the film,” she recalls. “The idea of her singing about looking for happiness while these women also ostensibly look for happiness in all the wrong places.”
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