Having recently relocated from the valley to Echo Park, 6th grader Robin (Jade Pettyjohn), who also goes by the name “Bird,” is very mature for her age as evident by the daily positive, handwritten affirmations flooding the walls of her room. Immediately, we see that she is way more responsible than her 30-year-old mother Jenny (Katee Sackhoff) who smokes pot in her daughter’s presence, sleeps until noon, complains that she hates grocery shopping, and for no apparent reason at all, has Bird take a city bus to a school event while she literally eats breakfast in bed. Jenny’s “free spirit” is like that of Gillian Jacobs’ character, Mickey in Judd Apatow’s TV show “LOVE,” and her hipster-ness can be so over the top that at times, it is hard to relate to her.
It is during this school event when, what seems to be every girl’s worst nightmare, comes true. Bird gets her first period– wearing white pants no less. What happens next, and for the remainder of the film, is cringe worthy, lingering awkwardness between the characters, the situation, and the film in general. Jenny laughs at her daughter and embarrasses her despite pleas to stop. Mom and daughter even attend a ritual to celebrate her first period, complete with flower crowns and glitter paint. While there are some moments of authenticity, mostly coming from Bird, one can only hear the phrase “blood gushing out of me” so many times.
Unfortunately, that is all this film offers- a girl gets her period and her mother doesn’t know how to be a mother when she is most needed. The attempt Jenny makes to treat her daughter like a best friend comes off as extremely selfish, going so far as saying that Bird is ruining her life. Jenny does eventually semi-confront her carelessness but by this point, it’s too little too late. She has dug a hole so deep that it’s asking a lot of the audience to accept the apology and find any redeeming qualities in her.
We leave “Girl Flu” wondering what more the story could have been. Pettyjohn gives a good performance as a strong, independent young woman and it is with her where our trust in the film lies. Luckily, she delivers. Jenny’s love interest Arlo (Jeremy Sisto) is another voice of reason that we hold onto to guide us through the chaos of female puberty. However, the script lacks the necessary elements to make “Girl Flu” an emotionally compelling story, therefore falling into our list of easily forgotten festival films.