If ridicule were to kill its witnesses, we would fall — fulminated — at the end of the first ten minutes of this adaptation of a best seller by Delia Owens (“There Where the Wind Cries”). They are enough to understand the ‘aesthetic hygiene project’ of a film that begins, in a picturesque way, with a sequence of eye-catching drone shots over a marsh and with a voice Off who goes on praising its mysteries. When she falls silent, we are told via a caption that we are in North Carolina in 1969, to follow in the footsteps of a team of police officers who find a dead body in the marsh.
It is about Chase Andrews: the young star of the American football team from the imaginary town of Barkley Cove, who, as we will soon understand, is also a reputed playboy. This macabre discovery will lead the townspeople (a chorus of slanderous voices) to weave into the void a criminal thesis: that Chase was murdered by the freak of the parish. Her name is Kya Clark: a 25-year-old girl who has long lived in seclusion in a small house situated on the marsh – which is why her neighbors contemptuously christened her “the marsh girl”. It won’t take long for the authorities to charge her with Chase’s murder, relying on a flimsy clue (the presence on the dead man’s clothes of fabric fibers belonging to a scarf of Kya’s).
It is there that we see her for the first time, hoping to make contact, if not with the female counterpart of Truffaut’s “The Wild Boy”, at least with a creature that carries on its body some visible marks of its isolation. Instead, what comes out in the raffle, like a hermit, is an impeccably dressed girl who, judging by her command of the verb, might as well attend a course in the theory of literature at the university (who plays her is Edgar-Jones , who looks like he just came out of a photo shoot).
The attraction to the photogenic will contaminate — to the point of completely discrediting them — all the elements of a film that, from then on, will circulate in parallel montage between Kya’s present and past. That is: between the sessions of his trial (which is limited to underlining his bad reputation with the community) and the recreation in flashback of his childhood and youth. What is woven in this way is a story of coming of agewhich starts with the clumsy explanation of the girl’s imprisonment, described at the time as the victim of an alcoholic father who — by dint of beatings — will force his wife and other daughters to run away from home (why none of them took Kya with you is something that is not clarified).
After her father also ‘disappears in combat’, the protagonist will be forced to survive alone, quickly concluding that school is dangerous ground: she is humiliated by her classmates when she ventures there, in the only sequence in which she shows bare feet and dirty face. About her daily life, the film tells us little: only that she sells mussels in a local shop, when she is not in a hut that, except for some signs of disarray, could pass for a tourist accommodation located in Comporta.
In fact, the only thing that catches the camera’s attention is Kyra’s sentimental upbringing, who — living in the middle of nowhere — manages to stumble across two boys as photogenic as she is. This is enough of a pretext for the film to produce a number of elegant romantic scenes (sometimes with the forest, sometimes with the river in the background), which only confirm what we already knew: that “The Wild Girl” is an escapist fiction for depressed ladies, which, for wild, has only the adjective.