Laurel Parmet’s astute feature narrative debut, THE STARLING GIRL zeroes in on the life of seventeen-year-old Jem Starling as she struggles to define her place within her fundamentalist Christian community of rural Kentucky. Even her greatest joy of dancing with the church group is tempered by worry that her actions are sinful and she is caught between a burgeoning awareness of her own sexuality and her religious devotion. With the return of Owen, an enigmatic youth pastor, Jem soon finds herself attracted to his worldliness and charm. Slowly, he draws her into a dangerous relationship that could upend their entire community. THE STARLING GIRL centers on Jem’s agency as Scanlen and a gruffly charismatic Lewis Pullman generate a palpable chemistry, even as the film steadily reaffirms Jem’s youthful naivete and Owen’s position of authority. Writer-director Laurel Parmet delicately balances the intoxication and inappropriateness of the pair’s transgressive connection in this morally complex, sensitive coming-of-age story. A stellar Eliza Scanlen beautifully conveys the impetuous, conflicted Jem’s tentative journey toward understanding her growingly complicated ideas about herself, her family, and the faith that has always guided her life.
About the filmmaker – Laurel Parmet is a screenwriter and director whose feature directorial debut, THE STARLING GIRL, will be premiering in the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Parmet received her MFA in directing from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and has written and directed several award-winning short films; the latest, KIRA BURNING, having premiered at SXSW and screened at MoMA in the Future of Film is Female series. Her previous short film, SPRING, screened at SXSW, Outfest, Palm Springs and many more. Parmet developed THE STARLING GIRL as a fellow of the Sundance Institute’s Feature Film Program and was recently named one of Variety’s 10 Directors to Watch for 2023.
“The language and strictures of their religious community are perfectly rendered by writer and director Laurel Parmet, who captures the complicated interplay of power and immaturity that can blossom in isolated communities.” – Alissa Wilkinson, Vox
“At a time when very little nuance is allowed in our culture, Parmet exquisitely manages to tell a complex story in the least judgmental manner, focusing primarily on the inner and outer world of her protagonist, perfectly embodied by Eliza Scanlen.. – Frank J. Avella, Edge Media Network
“Parmet’s strong script and surety behind the camera navigates the audience through this complicated story of religion and sexuality, patriarchy and power, brought to eerily accurate life by the ensemble of excellent actors.” – Katie Walsh, TheWrap