Official release poster
|Directed by||Jeff Baena|
|Edited by||Ryan Brown|
Horse Girl is a 2020 American psychological drama film directed and produced by Jeff Baena, from a screenplay by Baena and Alison Brie. It stars Alison Brie, Debby Ryan, John Reynolds, Molly Shannon, John Ortiz, and Paul Reiser.
Sarah is a shy, introverted young woman who lives a quiet life and works at a crafts store. In her spare time she visits the grave of her mother, who died by suicide the year before. She also frequents the horse stable where her former horse—Willow—is boarded, and where she rode in her childhood; Sarah's recurrent visits visibly annoy the owners. On her birthday, she makes a feeble attempt to ask her Zumba class instructor to go out with her but fails to make her point. When her roommate, Nikki, finds Sarah home alone on her birthday, she invites Darren—her boyfriend Brian's roommate—over for a double date. The four smoke marijuana and have drinks, and Sarah listens eagerly as Darren reveals details about himself and his past relationship, which was interrupted by her nose bleed. After he leaves, Sarah has a bizarre dream in which she is lying in a white room with a man and woman also lying down some distance away from her, unaware of their surroundings.
The following morning, Nikki awakens to find Sarah sleeping on the living room floor, and large scratch marks running across the wall. Darren returns to the apartment to retrieve his car, and asks Sarah on a date. At work, Sarah had another nose bleed and while recovering, she recognizes a man walking outside who resembles the one from her dream. Later, Sarah spends an afternoon with her childhood friend Heather, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in a riding accident that results in her having recurrent seizures and short term memory loss.
A series of bizarre incidents soon befall Sarah: While driving home, Sarah stops at a red light near a water facility. Next she finds herself in her kitchen with the tap running, unable to account for the elapsed time. She hears a woman talking indistinctly in another room when Nikki is not home, and later one morning finds her car has been stolen from her apartment's garage. Gary—Sarah's wealthy stepfather—notifies her the car has appeared at a tow yard, as the registration is still in his name. He brings Sarah to retrieve it, and the tow driver informs them the car was abandoned near a water facility in the middle of the road. Later on, Sarah apparently sleepwalks out of her apartment and awakens standing on a sidewalk, and has unexplained time loss. Her boss, Joan, suggests that Sarah visit a doctor given Sarah's familial history of mental health problems.
Sarah becomes convinced she is experiencing alien abductions and might be a clone, the latter triggered by a subplot in Purgatory, a fantasy television series Sarah watches regularly. Due to her striking resemblance to her deceased grandmother, Sarah worries she may be a clone of her. Meanwhile, she tracks the man from her dream, Ron, to a plumbing store that he owns. While on a date with Darren, Sarah manically confides her belief that she is a clone, and has him drive her to her mother's grave to dig her up and retrieve her DNA. When Darren becomes disturbed, Sarah accuses him of plotting against her, and threatens him with scissors, forcing him to leave her there.
After Sarah strips nude at work having imagined that she was inside the shower, she is admitted to a psychiatric hospital. There, she recognizes another patient as the woman from her dream; when Sarah describes it, the woman reveals that they shared similar elements in their dreams, such as an alien ramp in the middle of the ocean. Sarah takes this as confirmation of her belief that they are both alien abductees, and soon joyfully tells her social worker that she is not delusional. Despite his reservations, Sarah is discharged after 72 hours in the hospital, though it seemed to Sarah that only one night had passed. Sarah dresses in her grandmother's dress, covertly steals Willow from the stable and walks with her into the woods. Sarah stops in a clearing and lies on the ground. Moments later, a spaceship appears; she levitates toward the sky and disappears.
- Alison Brie as Sarah
- Victoria Claire as Young Sarah
- Debby Ryan as Nikki, Sarah's roommate
- John Reynolds as Darren, Sarah's love-interest
- Molly Shannon as Joan, Sarah's coworker
- John Ortiz as Ron, an owner of a plumbing company
- Jay Duplass as Ethan, a social worker
- Robin Tunney as Agatha Kaine, a character in Purgatory
- Paul Reiser as Gary, Sarah's stepdad
- Matthew Gray Gubler as Darren Colt, a character in Purgatory
- Meredith Hagner as Heather, Sarah's disabled friend
- Zoe Saltz as Young Heather
- Jake Picking as Brian, Nikki's boyfriend
- Dylan Gelula as Jane Doe
- Toby Huss as Joe, a horse trainer
- Angela Trimbur as Julie
- David Paymer as Doctor
- Aaron Stanford as Hades, a character in Purgatory
- Dendrie Taylor as Heather’s mother
- Lauren Weedman as Cheryl
- Luis Fernandez-Gil as Tow Worker
- Sharaé Nikai as Nurse
In June 2019, it was announced Alison Brie would star in the film, with Jeff Baena directing from a screenplay he wrote with Brie. Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass serve as executive producers under their Duplass Brothers Productions banner, with Netflix distributing.
Horse Girl holds an 70% approval rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on 52 reviews, with an average score of 6.3/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "Horse Girl proves unwilling or unable to explore the deeper themes it addresses, but this unusual drama is anchored by Alison Brie's committed performance". According to Metacritic, which sampled 17 critics and calculated a weighted average score of 61 out of 100, the film received "generally favorable reviews".
Nick Allen of RogerEbert.com reviewed the film out of its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. In a 3-star review: "The sincerity that Brie brings to her full-fledged embodiment of mental illness is major, and in turn helps Horse Girl overcome its tricky storytelling."
- Kiang, Jessica (January 28, 2020). "'Horse Girl': Film Review". Variety. Archived from the original on February 18, 2020.
- "Horse Girl". Production List. Retrieved December 5, 2019.
- Siegel, Tatiana (December 4, 2019). "Sundance Unveils Female-Powered Lineup Featuring Taylor Swift, Gloria Steinem, Abortion Road Trip Drama". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 5, 2019.
- Erbland, Kate (January 21, 2020). "'Horse Girl' Trailer: Alison Brie Can 'Hear the Future' in Jeff Baena's Unpredictable Sundance Premiere". IndieWire. Retrieved January 21, 2020.
- "Horse Girl (2020)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 29, 2021.
- "Horse Girl Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved January 29, 2021.
- Allen, Nick. "Horse Girl movie review & film summary (2020) | Roger Ebert". www.rogerebert.com. Retrieved February 12, 2020.