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I first read Stargirl in February of 2019, nearly a year after it was announced that Grace had been cast in the title role. Stargirl was a book I’d heard of many times growing up, and a book I’d stared at on the shelf at my school library in 5th grade and contemplated picking up, but I’d always get distracted and find myself walking away. In 2018 that title again came back to me and I tried my best to get my hands on that book for a year. When I finally scored a copy and sat down to read, I opened it and didn’t close it until I read the last word with tears in my eyes. I had struggled my whole life with self expression but Grace had helped me and knowing she had the role, seemed like it was meant to be.

Fast forward over a year later and it’s now 2020, I’ve just finished watching “Stargirl” on my sofa, 10 feet away from the place where I binge read the book a year ago. The air smells sweeter than it did, colours look brighter, things taste new. I have to write. I close my eyes, breathe deeply and unlock my phone.

Now what do I say? How do I wrangle the feelings bubbling around in my brain into words? Well, I’ve never tried before but I’ll give it my best shot.

“Stargirl” was a book that left me balling my eyes out. “Stargirl” was a movie that I also finished the same way.

I’ve never been the kind of person who was particularly critical of movies. I learned to see the beauty and the stories they wanted to tell. I didn’t always care much about writing but when it was well written, that was even better.

I always preferred acting and cinematography to writing, yet still, I learned to put some things on hold, to “suspend my disbelief”.

What I tend to focus on as a person experiencing the movie is how the movie makes me feel. Did it send chills down my spine? Did it make me cry? Did it make my heart race? So, this review of Stargirl might be on the biased side, from someone who tries her best to see the world as a place where anything can be possible, but what the hell, this is what I saw in it:

The entire movie was filmed beautifully. The colour schemes used before Stargirl’s arrival scream bleakly at you, you feel the loneliness and darkness of this small town; the loneliness of Leo Borlock and his Mother who still mourns the loss of his father, and her beloved husband.

Striking, but simple images communicate the state of the characters; Leo eating a single cupcake alone on his 16th birthday with one candle reading a simple note from his mom apologising for working late, hallways filled with people whose faces you don’t even notice.
The world is dark and life feels empty… feels hopeless.

But then Stargirl arrives, and the town comes to life, colour bursts through the screen and light shines into your eyes like the setting sun.

There’s that feeling. First love. The purity and giddy joy of having someone to share things with. Stargirl is wise, she’s mysterious, wholly empathetic, and vulnerable, but also quietly brave. She doesn’t ask questions but she has all the answers, or feels she does for a while. She’s devoted and kind and finds a way to bring Leo out of his shell. They shine together, they stand out in the crowd and everything slows down when they’re with each other. You almost feel like you too have fallen for Stargirl. It’s easy to forget you’re only watching a movie.

I want to give credit, at this point, to Graham Verchere who totally endeared the character of “Leo” to me when I first watched him and Grace, as “Stargirl”, interact. The two share amazing chemistry that just cannot be faked and it leaks beautifully onto the screen and into their performances. Graham brought sympathy to a character I otherwise couldn’t relate to. I found myself cheering for Leo, I found myself trying harder to understand him. He portrayed a character with a side to the story that I never even thought about. While we all want to see Stargirl happy, we forget to think about Leo as a person too. This part was perfectly adjusted to fit who I see Graham as and how I think Julia saw him. I believe Graham will have a huge career ahead of him and that Stargirl is only the beginning.

Grace shines as an actress. She manages to perfectly capture every piece of Stargirl, from her wise and reserved side, her loud and bold confidence, and her saddest form as just plain old Susan. I think what’s best about her performance is that Stargirl is so real. She seems otherworldly but also so human, she’s never overly bubbly or impossibly happy.

There are so many subtle nuances on display in her acting; how she conveys Stargirl’s uncertainty in her new surroundings, in the way her eyes dance around the field when she first sings to the school alone, how her face illuminates when the spotlight appears on her, the stillness as she tells Leo about the beauty of “becoming nothing”.

Grace also shone brilliantly when expressing the realisation that people don’t understand Stargirl the way she thought they did; her eyes watering, and her posture crumbling as Hillary Kimble confronts her about her brother, the single tear she sheds when she finds out she’s hurt someone, the way she dances so freely and joyfully for her last few moments at Mica High School at the dance, as she looks back on her experiences at the school and says goodbye to Leo without a word. Grace was completely able to make Stargirl human, without giving up what can only be described as, well…her magic.

Stargirl was every bit as touching and moving as I hoped it would be. “Stargirl” made life seem new and beautiful again. A visually stunning film with exquisite acting and superb dialogue.

An upbeat and pretty awesome soundtrack that didn’t overpower the story and made everything just that much more enchanting.

As the weeks have turned into months and the state of the world has gotten more difficult to deal with, it was incredible to take my mind off of my own life and “Stargirl” was, well, just what I needed.