“A Girl Like Her is …. a marvel of formal invention … a brutal examination of cultural hypocrisy.”
Article by Dan Schindel for Nonfics: Real Stories, Real Insight, titled “The Doc Option: Before ‘Philomena’ Watch “A Girl Like Her’ “, November 27, 2013
(full review here)
See recent reviews from:
Bitch Magazine – Feminist Response to Pop Culture, (at bottom of page- no link available)
Video Librarian, September/October 2013 (at bottom of page– no link available)
“A Girl Like Her packs an emotional wallop greater than most other films released this year, documentary or fiction.”
“Of all the films screened by the Indy, Ann Fessler’s A Girl Like Her, stands out as one of the most thought-provoking.This one will hit you in your gut and keep you up at night.” Colorado Springs Independent, “Femine Mystique” by Bret Wright, October 31, 2012 (full review here)
“Fessler offers a sociologically rich and important deconstruction of a devastating double social standard that was in effect in those days. In revealing the painful legacy that permanently impacted so many birthmothers, Fessler has finally and respectfully given them a voice and created a powerful collective portrait that will benefit everyone touched by adoption. The film is a primer in empathy for adoptees from this generation struggling to understand why their birthmothers gave them up.” ART HOUND review by Geneva Anderson, October 6, 2012
(full review here)
“A Girl Like Her”Ann Fessler’s haunting group portrait of women who surrendered their children for adoption in the 1950s and ’60s juxtaposes their voices with stock archival images from an era when wrenching human drama was buried beneath airbrushed images of family and sexuality. THE WASHINGTON POST, Entertainment,June 15, 2012, “Ten movies not to miss at Silverdocs” by Ann Hornaday
(full review here)
“Precise, daunting, and also allusive, this story recalls those bad old days … when ignorance, silence, and repression were the preferred social strategies … decidedly anti-nostalgic … heart-wrenching.” –PopMatters, by Cynthia Fuchs, Film and TV Editor, June 19, 2012
(full review here)
“By mixing up the women’s stories, Fessler smartly underscores the universality of their experiences, and her use of archival footage—the images of the era as it wished to see itself, full of happy families and perfectly cooked casseroles—contrasts effectively with the messy realities the women describe.” –WASHINGTONIAN by Jessica Voelker, June 18, 2012 (full review here)
“quietly devastating” Washington City Paper, by Tricia Olszewski • June 15, 2012 (full review here)
“A Girl Like Her”, a new film by Ann Fessler, visually expresses the trappings of an era unthinkable by the standards of today … with a punishment that far surpassed the crime. Scenes in the movie unleashed all too familiar memories. That evening I grieved for all the young mothers and yet felt liberated to see that our ordeal had been real, not imagined.”
–American Adoption Congress DECREE, Summer 2012 – Vol. 29/No.2 “Musings from the Colorado Conference” by Donnie Davis, surrendering mother and former President of American Adoption Congress (not available online)
“Women recall … in riveting detail … their parents’ reactions, life in the unwed others home and the lifelong emptiness they have felt as a result of losing a child. Think times have changed? Two words: Rick. Santorum.”–Independent Weekly, by Lisa Sorg, April 11, 2012, Durham, NC, Full Frame Documentary Film Festival Reviews
Strongly recommended film (full review here)Recent Reviews (no links available)Bitch Magazine – Feminist Response to Pop Culture, Fall 2013 – Issue #60, pg 68, 69
Far too often a documentary’s ideological aim is too transparent, detracting from the argument’s credibility as well as from the aesthetics of its denouement. (See: everything by Michael Moore ever.) Ann Fessler’s A Girl Like Her, though, perseveres. This 48-minute feature details the 1950s and ’60s banishment of more than one million young, pregnant American women to maternity homes where they were pressured to give their children up for adoption.
Though it would have been easy for Fessler to take an op-ed–like approach in her filmmaking, she lets the institution’s horror speak for itself in a way that even the most hardened chauvinists can’t fail to hear. The film brings together women—whose voices still strain with sobs decades later—to describe their unending sense of emptiness since surrendering their children. Many blamed themselves, not knowing that they could fight back. What abounds is a continued sense of betrayal. One woman’s mother tricked her into douching with Lysol in hopes of triggering miscarriage. Another anecdote discusses a woman who was virtually held prisoner until she broke and “gave up” her baby.
By pairing these interviews with clips of educational and pop culture footage from the era that pertain to love and sex—especially the ill-wrought notion of an “illegitimate” pregnancy—the audience can see how reproductive ignorance and an antiwoman culture combined to force a heartbreaking outcome. The somewhat campy vintage footage makes the film accessible and provides historical context, but also lessens the psychological burden on viewers so they can get through a sociologically significant, albeit difficult, work—a necessary levity to the heavy truth that pristine, postwar America had deeply troubling social problems.
Though A Girl Like Her is not Fessler’s first adoption-themed oeuvre (an adoptee herself, the director has spent more than two decades exploring the topic), the documentary’s thought-provoking power makes us hope that it’s not her last take. —Victoria Bekiempis
FOLLOW UP WITH: Fessler’s 2007 nonfiction book, The Girls Who Went Away.
Video Librarian, September/October 2013
In A Girl Like Her, writer-director Ann Fessler collects several disturbing first-person accounts of teenage pregnancy during the 1950s and ‘60s. None of the women appear on camera, but their interspersed narratives play over scenes from contemporary films and newsreels showing idealized depictions of romance, marriage, and domestic life. The subjects recall their parents’ silence about sex, menstruation, and birth control, as well as the uniformly condemning reactions they faced when revealing their pregnancies. Generally treated with indifference during childbirth, they were blindsided by the emotions they felt towards infants whom they were discouraaged from even holding—and all gave up their babies for adoption in anguish, signing papers that identified the chiildren as abandoned and the fathers as unknown, believing they had no legal options, while facing crushing familial and social disapproval. All of the women assert that the trauma affects them deeply to the present day, coloring life choices and ambitions in spite of popular notions that one simply “moves on” (and onscreen statistic notes that of the 100 women interviewed, 30 never had another child). The movie footage here punches up the personal accounts, creating a jaw-dropping picture of “ideal” womanhood in an America that existed only 50 years ago. Highly recommended. (M. Puffer-Rothenberg)