Wideshot Reviews: My Girl (1991)

My Girl was able to differentiate itself amongst other coming-of-age films by successfully interlacing its focal theme of death with the classic themes of friendship, love and family despite its simple premise.

Review by: Poly Alconcel
Edited By: Jack de Dios and Robbie Claravall
Director: Howard Zieff
Cast: Anna Chlumsky, Macaulay Culkin, Dan Aykroyd, Jamie Lee Curtis
Genre: Coming-of-Age, Drama

R emember the days spent with childhood friends, the sound of laughter being carried away by the summer breeze?

There are times when we find ourselves wanting to reminisce on our glory days no matter how old we may get. Howard Zieff’s My Girl (1991), is a coming-of-age film that will give you the satisfaction of revisiting those days of wrestling with the foreign and seemingly colossal problems that come with growing up.

My Girl follows 11-year old hypochondriac Vada Sultenfuss as she deals with bullies, struggles with physical changes, and learns about first loves and real friendships — all during the summer of 1972. The Sultenfusses live in a funeral parlor home. This setting serves as the backdrop for the complicated notions of Vada about life and death. Having been raised by a widowed, no-nonsense father who is always busy with his job, Vada spends her days bossing around her best friend, Thomas J. Sennett while caring for her grandmother and fawning over her fifth-grade school teacher, Mr. Bixler. This norm is disrupted once Vada’s father, Harry, hires idealistic Shelly DeVoto as the new makeup artist for Sultenfuss Funeral Parlor. Needless to say, the sprightly 11-year old’s summer turns into one she’ll surely never forget.

My Girl was able to differentiate itself amongst other coming-of-age films by successfully interlacing its focal theme of death with the classic themes of friendship, love and family despite its simple premise. The lives of Vada and all the other characters in the film are largely impacted by them losing something important whether it be a loved one, a home, or even the affection from someone dear to them. The influence of such losses on the characters are shown through various signs used in the film such as Vada’s mood ring, the dead fish, the beehive, and the funeral parlor itself to name a few. In such a manner, this simple coming-of-age story comes to mean so much more than just being about a young girl struggling with growing up.

In the true spirit of coming-of-age films, My Girl really grapples your emotions and takes you back to the sweet foregone memories of childhood.

It may be slow-paced at some parts, but Vada’s story is presented to make viewers feel as though they were living through that very summer with her. Truly a movie worth checking out if you haven’t yet.

August 12, 2021

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Loyola Film Circle

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The premier film organization of Ateneo de Manila University

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