“Coming from Camera d’Or-winning Israeli filmmaker Keren Yedaya (who took home the trophy in 2004 for Or), [That Lovely Girl] details the relationship between fifty something Moshe (Grad Tzahi) and twentysomething Tami (Maayan Turgeman),” writes Oliver Lyttelton at the Playlist. “The two live together in a poky flat in Tel Aviv, the latter barely leaving while her partner is away at work, and their lives seem to consist mostly of eating together and having sex. Oh, and as it’s revealed almost immediately, Moshe and Tami are father and daughter…. Does this sound unbelievably, unrelentingly grim? Try sitting through the fucking thing. Claustrophobic and essentially a two-hander, it’s not so much a movie as a series of increasingly traumatizing, bleak indignities inflicted on Tami, from emotional bullying to beatings, from rape to, uh, gang-rape…. Even Lars von Trier would probably shift uneasily in his seat and find it a bit much.”
For In Contention‘s Guy Lodge, this is “a claustrophobic exercise in kitchen-sink horror that piles enough indignities upon its protagonist to fill several novels written by Sapphire. Its miserablism isn’t garish, but neither is it all that sensitive: Yedaya surveys her victim with sympathy and some candor without getting very far under her skin.”
“Needless to say, it’s not an easy film to watch, but Yedaya strives to avoid exploitation, stripping the film style down to a social-realist minimalism,” writes Leslie Felperin for the Hollywood Reporter. “The use of zooms and an ill-advised fantasy sequence play with the conventions of melodrama, but without fully committing. That can’t be said, however, of the core cast who give rich, sustained performances, especially Turjeman who’s a real find and pulls off some bravura moments, like managing to cry while stuffing her face with rice at the same time in arguably the film’s most haunting scene.”
“That Lovely Girl, despite its sensationalist topic, and its treatment of the heroine as Voltaire’s Candide, shows the tabu as an unusual analogy confronting the possibility of a change beyond all evil,” writes Mónica Delgado at desistfilm.
For Screen‘s Mark Adams, “this bleak and dour film is defined by its sense of unhappiness, the strong central performances end up making it disturbingly mesmeric.”
Updates, 5/17: From Mike D’Angelo at the Dissolve: “Miserablism of this order has thankfully gone out of style, for the most part; judging from this pointless, grueling downer, there’s no need for a comeback.”
The AV Club‘s A.A. Dowd: “There’s no doubting that the horrors the film depict are true to life; shrewd about the way a parental predator might operate, keeping his offspring in check by making her feel worthless, That Lovely Girl could conceivably be useful as an awareness tool…. But as cinema it has one setting: Bludgeon With Shame And Misery.”
“Turjeman and Grad give what are generally called ‘brave’ performances, and there’s no question they opened themselves up emotionally for this punishing psychological ride,” sighs Variety‘s Jay Weissberg.
Update, 5/19: “That Lovely Girl feels like its aim is to punish rather than enlighten, to paralyze rather than incite further discussion,” writes Nicholas Bell at Ioncinema.