The Girl in the Book | Pinned down on the page by a predatory man

The Girl in the Book Ana Mulvoy-Ten

The Girl in the Book Ana Mulvoy-Ten

She's ready to reclaim her story.

Fittingly, at a time when the issue of sexual harassment is more urgent and raw than ever, the subtly compelling drama The Girl in the Book portrays a young woman grappling with the long-term repercussions of her teenage encounters with a predatory older man.

Nearing 30 when we first meet her, Emily VanCamp’s Alice is clearly emotionally damaged. A smart, sardonic junior editor for a Manhattan publisher, she is wracked with self-doubt and self-loathing. She reels from one drunken one-night stand to the next and seems intent on sabotaging any chance of a fulfilling relationship. She is also a thwarted author, crippled with writer’s block.

And making matters even worse, her condescending male boss has just given her the unwelcome task of supervising the reissue of a 15-year-old bestseller by celebrated author Milan Daneker (played by Swedish actor Michael Nyqvist, best known for the original Dragon Tattoo films, who died earlier this year).

Which brings us to the source of Alice’s woes. As a teenager (played in extensive flashbacks by Ana Mulvoy-Ten), Alice had been - as the film’s title suggests - the inspiration for Milan’s acclaimed book. A client of Alice’s domineering literary agent father (Michael Cristofer), Milan had exploited his self-appointed role as Alice’s writing mentor – and not only sexually. Equally secretly, he also plundered her life for his novel. Which makes his reappearance in Alice’s life doubly painful.

First-time writer-director Marya Cohn relates all this with insight, sensitivity and skill, only faltering slightly towards the end when things get unnecessarily sappy. But VanCamp and Mulvoy-Ten are both superb, expressing the consequences of Alice’s ordeal with devastating clarity.

Certificate 15. Runtime 85 mins. Director Marya Cohn

The Girl in the Book debuts on Sky Cinema Premiere on 22 November.

Jason Best

A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.