Finn's Girl

Wolfe Video

Dominique Cardona,
Laurie Colbert

Laurie Colbert

Brooke Johnson, Maya Ritter, Yanna McIntosh, Gilles Lemaire, Nathalie Toriel, Richard Clarkin, Chantel Cole, Andrew Chalmers

Unrated, 88 minutes

Teach Your
Children Well
by Michael D. Klemm
Posted online, November, 2008

To many filmgoers, one of the most beloved motion picture genres is the familiar and heartwarming story of a single, widowed parent struggling to raise a child all alone. Most are usually variations on the same theme. Here's one I haven't seen before; the stressed-out parent is a lesbian and she runs an abortion clinic.

I bet that just got your attention. Finn's Girl is an interesting new Canadian film co-directed by Dominique Cardona and Laurie Colbert, with a script by Colbert. Brooke Johnson stars as Dr. Finn Jeffries. Finn is an expert in reproductive technologies but, for now, she has chosen to continue running the clinic founded by her late partner, Nancy, a famed activist. She has become used to the almost-daily death threats and the protesters outside the clinic. Zelly (Maya Ritter) is her precocious and rebellious eleven-year old daughter. Zelly is fond of reminding Finn that she isn't her "real mother." Between parenting, her research, the clinic, and harassing fanatics, the poor woman has her hands full. The icing on the cake is when someone takes a shot at her one day when she's leaving the clinic.

The heart of the movie is the unconventional relationship between mother and daughter that is nothing like you've ever seen on The Donna Reed Show. Finn loves her daughter but is the first to admit that it was Nancy who knew how to really be a parent. Zelly likes to steal her mother's pot and smoke it with her friends. The girl's nanny quits, allowing for Zelly to be alone and to get in trouble between the time she gets out of school and Finn gets home from work. One of her friends says "I wish my mom was a lesbian. I could stay out late like you." But Zelly's going through a rocky period with Finn. She misses her birth mom and dislikes Finn's girlfriend, Jamie, a fellow doctor at the clinic. Zelly has no problem expressing herself when Finn tries to have a heart-to-heart. "It's illegal to leave an 11 year old all alone at night" is her response to a scolding. When Finn looks at Nancy's picture and says "I miss you so much," Zelly asks "Is that why you fuck Jamie?"

Adding a little more familial tension is Paul (Richard Clarkin), Zelly's birth-father. He wants Zelly to stay with him until the trouble at the clinic boils over. "I hate it when you treat me like a sperm donor," he tells Finn. She and Paul have additional issues over a drug he is testing at the hospital where they both conduct research. Finn's fertility studies provide the modus operandi for an odd twist in the third act. Lastly, there are the two cops, a lesbian of color named Diana and a French-Canadian ladies' man named Xavier (Yanna McIntosh and Gilles Lemaire) assigned to guard Dr. Finn. Besides providing police protection, Diana eventually becomes a big sister to Zelly and confidant to her mom.
The film isn't out to make a political statement and there are no deliberate audience manipulations at play. Whatever one's personal feelings are towards abortion, Finn's Girl is an often frightening story about a driven woman who believes she is doing the right thing and is just starting to understand the impact that her choices are having on her daughter's well being. Zelly hears threatening phone calls and her best friend's moralistic mother doesn't want her son to play with her. Danger lurks in the third act but those looking for a flashy Single White Female style ending will be disappointed. Finn's Girl is a remarkable character study of a family dealing with more than their share of the usual life traumas and these are examined without resorting to melodrama or cliche. Humor is nicely used to balance the often bleak atmosphere. Zelly gets the best line of the film when she walks up to the abortion protesters and says "School's out. Shouldn't you be home with your kids?" During a stake-out, Xavier asks Diana what lesbians do in bed and she replies, "We lie there and wait for a French guy like you to show up."

Most memorable is Brooke Johnson's complex Dr. Finn, a fertility specialist who paradoxically performs abortions. She rides a motorcycle, wears a leather jacket, and keeps her salt and pepper hair cropped short. The look perfectly fits her character; a lovely woman aged by tragedy. Her sensuality isn't forgotten; look for a steamy rendezvous with Jamie and for a deeper bond to grow between Finn and Diana. (Inter-racial romances are becoming more common in queer films but they're still refreshing to see.) Maya Ritter is also exceptional as Zelly; she seems wise beyond her years and is a believable brat without being the usual obnoxious Hollywood child actress. In fact, the entire cast delivers the goods.

Finn's Girl leaves a lot of loose ends and questions unanswered (perhaps too many) but it offers a controversial background story and a touching look at a mother-daughter relationship that survives being pushed to its limits. Highly recommended.