Sometimes filmmakers and/or film lovers sit down to talk about the movie they’re watching, and it’s called a commentary. Sometimes our Rob Hunter listens to that commentary and shares the most interesting and entertaining parts. Welcome to Commentary Commentary!
While Hollywood offers up good, entertaining blockbusters on occasion, they’ve long ago said goodbye to producing and releasing smaller, smarter thrillers for adults. Fans need to look towards independent cinema for such things these days, and that often means keeping an eye out for films from overseas. A Good Woman Is Hard to Find is one such gem, and as the film arrives on home video it does so with a handful of supplements including a commentary with the director.
Keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary track for…
A Good Woman Is Hard to Find (2019)
Commentator: Abner Pastoll (director)
1. The film opens in medias res with Sarah (Sarah Bolger) blood-spattered and leaning against a wall, but it originally opened with a different in medias res scene showing her son Ben discovering drugs in their flat. I’m not a fan of in medias res openings, but I’m giving Abner a pass as he’s a good guy.
2. The supermarket was one of the more difficult locations to film in due in part to its opening hours. They shot all of the scenes set there — some appear at the start of the film while more arrive at the film’s ending — on a single Sunday.
3. They shot in two different neighborhood estates in Belfast to stand in for one, but the interior of Sarah’s apartment were filmed on a sound stage in Belgium.
4. The two child actors, Rudy Doherty and Macie McCauley, are making their debut here, and both are legitimately good. This was their first experience on a set, but Bolger helped as she herself was a child actor as well.
5. The vibrator scene called for ” a pink vibrator,” and when the art department presented it to Pastoll and Bolger they were surprised by its size. “Best film ever,” added Bolger, and the filmmaker says he’s been approached by multiple women identifying with Sarah’s struggle.
6. They taught young McCauley to say “bitch” for a single line, but she proceeded to say it all day long until she apparently forgot it.
7. Composer Matthew Pusti crafted an original score for the film, but two preexisting pieces are used here as well. The first plays during Tito’s (Andrew Simpson) efforts to steal a car and a drug stash, and the track is called “Train to Busan” as Pusti was inspired by that South Korean gem. It was originally composed in 2017 when he spent time writing tracks inspired by various horror movies he loved.
8. The car crash sequence didn’t quite work on first take — typically the only take a small independent film can afford — so they managed a second one by shooting around the dents.
9. The Voodoo Bar in Belfast is where they filmed the villain’s bar scenes, and “the floor was so sticky from years of beer just caked on it, that we had to actually clean it to keep the sound clean.” So yeah, add it to your itinerary next time you’re in Ireland.
10. The film is a UK/Belgium co-production planned for a twenty day shooting schedule, but he was ultimately forced to cut four days. That’s bonkers, but Pastoll still doesn’t have a bad thing to say about the Belgians.
11. Bolger was attached to the film for eighteen months before filming began, and that benefited the production immensely as they had plenty of time to develop a shorthand in communication. You’d think it all that time they could have come up with a different name for Sarah Bolger’s character, also named Sarah, but no.
12. Tito uses slang when talking about the money he’s giving Sarah, so when he says “percent” he’s actually referring to the pound currency value itself.
13. It’s hard to believe that Tito’s hair was an intentional choice, but it was. Part of the reason is budget-related as his character is decapitated late in the film — less hair equates to a cheaper prosthetic head. “Of course, Andrew wasn’t particularly happy with this hairstyle…”
14. Pastoll saw Emelie (2015) shortly after reading this script, and it cemented his idea of casting Bolger. In that film she plays a psychotic babysitter, but he wanted to see her here as someone channeling the opposite instinct.
15. The beer cans are Belgian because they couldn’t get clearance for any UK brands for some reason.
16. The attempted assault scene wasn’t difficult to film, but Pastoll initially had a difficult time with it in the editing phase due to its roughness. The only real downside on the day of filming was that Bolger’s agent chose this day to visit the set which made it a bit awkward for Pastoll.
17. Nigel O’Neill plays the older cop who comes to the house to investigate a disturbance, and Pastoll first saw him in the brilliant Bad Day for the Cut (2017).
18. The bus ride at 45:40 features cameos at the back of the bus of the kids’ real mothers.
19. He recalls the first day of shooting with the kids as he and Bolger looked at each other thinking “Fuck, we’re going to have to cut the kids out of the movie.”
20. His favorite scene in the film is the sequence where Sarah talks with the social worker as flashbacks to her sawing and chopping up Tito’s body are intercut into the chat. He loves it “because of the way that it changed so dramatically from the script and through the shoot and into the final edit.”
21. They weren’t able to acquire proper blood squibs for the end sequence shootout, so they improvised using an air pump.
22. He ends the commentary by saying if listeners have questions that weren’t answered they can reach out to him on social media, and I will be doing just that as he failed to acknowledge the film’s biggest mystery — how has the villainous Leo Miller (Edward Hogg) never heard of Tito Jackson?
23. Pastoll is a sneaky bastard. He says his goodbyes as the end credits start and then stops talking… until the final thirty seconds where he returns to add that he and writer Ronan Blaney have plans for further adventures with Sarah either in a sequel or a possible television series. Nice!
Best in Context-Free Commentary
“They almost don’t feel like real police.”
“This location was as disgusting and gross as it looks.”
“I love these leopard underwear.”
“I’m sure you’re probably bored of hearing me gushing over Sarah.”
“I think I completely lost my mind making the movie.”
We get it Abner, you think Sarah Bolger is the bees knees! I kid, but in addition to praising Bolger’s legitimately fantastic performance, Pastoll also covers a lot of aspects of the film’s production here. It’s refreshing to hear a filmmaker offer up a non-stop commentary, and it’s clear that he loves the craft and his collaborators. Fans of the film should seek out his previous feature, Road Games, and then join me in looking forward to whatever he makes next.
Read more Commentary Commentary from the archives.