Stephanie Zari (director)
28 May 2021 (released)
25 May 2021
Based on a play by Derek Ahonen and adapted for the screen by him, Zebra Girl initial looks as if it will be sticking to its origins, with mannerisms and dialogue suited to the boards, that don’t usually transfer well to the big screen. This however dissipates as the story unfolds with director Stephanie Zari taking the reins leading it towards more cinematic plains.
Catherine (Sarah Roy) is married to Dan (Tom Cullen) though that doesn’t stop her from putting a knife through the side of his head as he looks at a laptop in his office, at their home. Calling on her old school friend (and lover) Anita (Jade Anouka) the pair look to get rid of the body in the most efficient way they could think of which is by dismemberment and burning.
While this plays out there are flashbacks to Catherine’s childhood and teens revealing a traumatised and dysfunctional relationship with her parents: her father (Henry Douthwaite) an abuser, her mother (Anna Wilson-Jones) a pill popper.
As the film flits between these Catherine’s first date with Dan, their courting and marriage, we also get an insight into Catherine’s delicate mental condition via interviews with the police: Run ins with authority are part and parcel (which she relishes) of her early years until it just goes too far.
The story centres on a very strong performance from Sarah Roy as Catherine’s story and character develop from a person who is quirky (even at her most outrageous) but there’s little sympathy for, to one whom we see overwhelmed by confusion and events. It’s a tricky role that you sometimes fear could go full tilt into a scenery chewing maelstrom, thankfully Roy keeps it very much in hand and on the edge.
The film shifts focus a number of times and it’s not the most delicate assembly by Zari but fluid enough that it doesn’t lurch and become incoherent. The black comedy hinted at the beginning never really hits the spot as we explore Catherine’s character with the film dabbling with the psychological and horror. Saying that its sharply written throughout with some ripe scenes for Isabelle Connolly, who plays the teenage Catherine, to get her teeth into.
In many respects this is a highly technical project with plenty of odd angles, close-ups and free flowing camera work that understandably in the context act to disorientate somewhat though again don’t detract overall. Add in a superb light and sound design and score by Caspar Leopard it all hangs together well and is solid debut feature for Zari.