Ashley (Abbie Cornish) is a fighter. She’ll tussle with the manager at her Walmart-esque superstore job for not giving her a promotion. She’ll get in the face of the foster parent who’s taken in her young son and the social worker who drops by unannounced to check out her filthy dwellings. This lady will even go toe-to-toe with her deadbeat dad (Will Patton), never mind that he whisked her to Mexico for a why-the-hell-not night out. It’s there that this gringa gets the idea to smuggle immigrants across the Tex-Mex border—an impulsive get-cash-quick move that ends in disaster. Luckily for a motherless child (Santiago Hernandez) who falls under Ashley’s care, this amateur coyote won’t leave a young’un to the wolves.
For those of us who’ve wondered when Cornish—such a formidable presence in movies like the coming-of-age drama Somersault (2004) and the high-lit romance Bright Star (2009)—would get the star vehicle she deserves, David Riker’s cut-rate character study replies: You’ll have to wait a little longer. Stuck in a pitifully one-dimensional part, the Aussie actor is reduced to pantomiming angry Lone Star slumming in the film’s first half and maternal Lifetime-movie beaming in the later bits. Her writer-director does her no favors in either department, feeding her stock lines about making ends meet and offering her a weak guiding hand when it comes to negotiating the melodramatics. In all aspects, The Girl can’t help it—this is headline-torn cinema du tearjerking at its most generic.
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