By Don Simpson | August 23, 2012
Director: Justin Lerner
Writer: Justin Lerner
Starring: Amanda Plummer, Jackson Rathbone, Shannon Woodward, Evan Sneider, Jerad Anderson, Harrison Lees, Joseph Turnbull, Seth Chatfield, Daniel J. Turnbull, Darren MacDonald, Nate Krawshuk
Candy (Shannon Woodward) is a single mother in a working-class town who has found herself in dire financial straights. Despite working as a receptionist at the local garage, Candy cannot keep up with the rent on her house. She relies upon her ex-boyfriend Russ (Jackson Rathbone) for money, but he rarely has any cash himself. Besides, Russ is still bitter that Candy will not allow him to visit their son.
On one fateful day, Evan (Evan Sneider) unexpectedly inherits a large sum of money. Evan has always had a crush on Candy, so upon learning about her financial situation he decides to help cover her rent. There is only one thing he expects in return, that Candy become his girlfriend. Evan has never had a girlfriend before, so he does not seem to understand what it actually means. Candy knows this, and with no other options, she takes full advantage of Evan’s generosity and naivete while giving him very little in return.
I know exactly what you are thinking. Candy does seem like a cold-hearted bitch for accepting several thousands of dollars from Evan. She recklessly flirts with other guys — including Russ — in the hopes of getting some money from them as well. But what other options does she have? There is very little work available where she lives. She has a young son to take care of, which includes keeping a roof over his head. Evan first leaves an anonymous envelope full of cash for Candy, not revealing who it came from until she had already given it to her landlord; it is not like Candy originally takes the money from Evan knowing that he wants her to become his girlfriend. After she accepts that first payment — and especially once her financial situation gets exponentially worse — it seems easier for Candy to accept money from Evan, though you can sense that she feels incredibly guilty for doing so. You can also sense that her guilt is escalated because Evan has Down Syndrome.
Writer-director Justin Lerner walks a fine line by casting the male lead as someone with Down Syndrome. Lerner definitely tries to keep Down Syndrome out of the equation as much as possible, but it is always the elephant in the room. Everyone (including the audience) knows that Evan has Down Syndrome and we know that it is affecting the decisions being made by other characters. And, yes, it makes Candy’s treatment of Evan so much more sickening.
Strand Releasing recently released Girlfriend on DVD in the United States. The DVD release includes a BBC interview with writer-director Justin Lerner and a couple of behind-the-scenes features: “The Making of Girlfriend‘ and “The Scoring of Girlfriend“. Oh, and check out this exclusive scene from Girlfriend.