'The Girl': Indie's message hard to miss ★★

'The Girl'

'The Girl' (March 21, 2013)

Harsh conditions, tough choices, improbably modelesque cheekbones. In writer-director David Riker's drama, Abbie Cornish plays the poverty-line Texas mother of a preteen. The boy has been placed by Social Services with a foster parent, until this big-box-store minimum-wager can prove herself a fit guardian.

The woman's wastrel father (Will Patton), a trucker living just over the border in Mexico, introduces his daughter to the world of coyotes, those who profit from helping undocumented workers across the river to America. Like "Frozen River" and several other, more persuasive films, "The Girl" attempts to balance character with its sense of social injustice.

She's a good actress, but Cornish has little but high notes and on-the-nose plot points to deliver.

When a tragic attempt at getting a group of Mexicans across leads her to an orphaned preteen, the film's parental themes are laid out as neatly and cleanly as possible. Riker's film could've used less diagraming and more mess — the way life works, as opposed to the average indie.

mjphillips@tribune.com

'The Girl' -- 2 stars
No MPAA rating
(some language)
Running time: 1:30
Opens: Friday at AMC River East 21. Presented by Facets Cinematheque.

CHICAGO

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