Horse Girl starring Alison Brie

The term horse girl is commonly defined as a young woman, usually socially awkward, whose personality manifests in her obsession with horses. In the Netflix Original film “Horse Girl,” the equine-affectionate girls are looked upon as societal outcasts that cause discomfort and eyerolls in any social situation.

“Horse Girl” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January and was released on Netflix on Feb. 7. The film stars Alison Brie as Sarah, a reserved girl who loves crafts, horses and crime TV shows. She is trying her best to make friends, find love and fit in with her peers. While exploring her identity, she starts to experience vivid lucid dreams that creep into her everyday life, and she starts to suspect something supernatural may be twisting her reality.

The film’s premiere at Sundance created some buzz from film critics. Of course, not every movie shown at the festival is amazing, but I’ve been impressed year-after-year with the films from Sundance that hit theaters. 2019’s award-winning indie films “Honey Boy” and “The Farewell” were astonishing, and both premiered at Sundance.

One obvious takeaway from this film is its undeniable weirdness. What begins as a simple tale of overcoming social anxiety takes a sharp turn into a sci-fi mystery that is both confusing and unsettling.

Sarah's family history sets her up to be an underdog. Her family has had generations of mental health issues — her grandmother had delusions about being from the future, and her mother committed suicide after her struggles with depression. The only people Sarah has close in her life are her roommate Nikki, played by Debby Ryan, and her boss Joan, played by Molly Shannon.

Eerie things start to take place as Sarah starts to finally find her confidence. She constantly gets random nose bleeds, memory loss, inexplicable bruises on her body and fits of sleepwalking that take her outside of her own home. After doing some research, Sarah is led to believe that she may have been abducted by aliens.

The first commendable aspect of this movie is the performance by Alison Brie. Her depiction of Sarah was perfectly relatable. The way she faces the stresses of life is something that’s easy to see in oneself or others. Whether that’s the anxiety of making new friends or the introverted binging of a favorite TV show, Brie flawlessly sinks into her character and makes her feel like a real person. Her descent into madness is unsettling, as it’s difficult to tell if she’s genuinely crazy or if the mysteries being uncovered are true.

The film wasn’t afraid to take risks. Extraterrestrial speculation was an unexpected plot direction for a film called “Horse Girl.” This unusual plot kept me guessing at every turn, leading to an entertaining viewing experience.

The film’s outlandish nature makes it memorable. However, it’s also the film’s biggest weakness. There were certain scenes, especially in the last 20 minutes, that were uncomfortable to watch. There are a series of events that take place after Sarah is admitted into a psychiatric hospital that were cringe-inducing and confusing enough to take me out of the film and actively doubt the film’s merits. 

The reasons given for Sarah’s sanity or insanity were unsatisfying and the peculiarities of the film seemed to supply nothing but shock value. The film displays every answer possible to Sarah’s suspicions during its conclusion that the plot becomes too messy to keep track of. The confusion this film creates ought to garner plenty of conversation among those who watched it — its interpretations are possibly endless.