A camera opens on a woman shaking and covered in blood, but it’s not her own. It follows her closely as she quickly washes herself off to hide any evidence of violence. We learn that this is Sarah (Sarah Bolger), a widow who is trying her best to raise her two kids after the murder of her husband. She is the focus of Abner Pastoll’s film, A Good Woman Is Hard to Find, which screened at this year’s Fantasia Fest. This is a film full of misogyny, blood, violence, and a woman fighting back against it all in the name of a better life for her kids.
In the midst of trying to care for her kids and find her husband’s killer, Sarah becomes forcibly involved with a drug dealer named Tito (Andrew Simpson), who shoves his way into her apartment after stealing drugs. Sure, she gets a cut of the profits but as Tito gets too comfortable and familiar with her home, she turns to violence to protect her family. Meanwhile, a grammar-obsessed crime boss named Leo (Edward Hogg) is searching for Tito after he stole his drugs. All of their paths meet in a mess of gore and dismemberment.
A Good Woman to Find seems like it will tread the usual path of a crime drama. However, it stands out because of Bolger’s stellar performance as Sarah and the way the film creates a message about patriarchal control over working class women. Sarah is shown trying her best to give her kids everything. But regardless of those efforts, she is demeaned by all of the men around her. An attendant at the supermarket asks how much she charges for a night. Tito thinks he can push her around and forcibly have sex with her as payment for his kindness. Sarah is constantly seen as weak and easily malleable. Even women look at her with pity as she counts out coins to pay for groceries, offering her overly-sympathetic words of comfort that are more embarrassing than supportive.
However, the men who bully her quickly learn that there is more than meets the eye. Sarah is capable of extreme violence and knows how to manipulate male sexuality to protect herself. At one point, she stabs a man in the eye with her vibrator to avoid being raped. Her means of self defense leads to murder, and while it would seem easy to call the cops and say it was done to protect herself and her kids, she stays silent. She knows the cops wouldn’t believe her, which is supported by how they ask her if she likes getting roughed up when they answer a call about a disturbance. A Good Woman is Hard to Find is about male-constructed power structures that exist to hold women down, and how one woman tries to fight back against them.
The film does have a slow start, but once it gets going, it’ll keep you on the edge of your seat. You’ll cheer for each of Sarah’s gnarly kills. You’ll whoop as she works to reclaim your agency. You’ll cringe as she slowly learns how to saw a body into pieces (parts of this film as very reminiscent of Abel Ferrara’s Ms. 45). A Good Woman is Hard to Find creates a crime thriller with a refreshing twist to include violence and a critical message about the patriarchy. Plus, you get to see Bolger give a career-defining performance that will hopefully score her more parts in genre films. Seek out this film and let the delicious warmth of revenge wash over you.