Gypsy Girl (1966)

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Brydie White (Hayley Mills) is a 17-year-old girl, emotionally scarred by the accidental shooting that killed her best friend in childhood.

She was involved in the accident but doesn’t have any recollection of it. She is, however, fascinated with death as a result of the experience. She has taken to burying dead animals in the church graveyard – a hobby that seems to be rubbing off on the local children, much to the chagrin of their judgmental parents.

Brydie’s mother (Annette Crosbie) is a reclusive alcoholic, incapable of taking care of her daughter as a normal parent would. The townsfolk think that with her weird habits and less-than-ideal upbringing, Brydie should be locked away. It seems that the only person on her side is the local reverend, Philip Moss (Geoffrey Bayldon).

That is, until she meets Roibin (Ian McShane), a member of a band of gypsies that has recently arrived in the area. Roibin quickly falls for Brydie. He sees it as his duty to help her, ant takes it upon himself  to save her from the critical eyes of the town.

Gypsy Girl was originally released as Sky West and Crooked. It was written by Hayley Mills’ mother, Mary Hayley Bell, and directed by Mills’ father, John.

Roibin and Brydie have an intense conversation about whether she should go back to town or stay with the gypsies. (Screen capture by TMP)

Under the direction of her father, Mills gives a wonderful performance. Her character is troubled but sweet. With a mentally absent mother, childhood trauma and the judgment of an entire town on her shoulders, it is easy to see why Brydie isn’t exactly well-adjusted. The character has a fairly wide range of relatability, despite the fact that not everyone suffers such terrible childhood traumas. It’s common to have interests, hobbies and experiences that may seem strange to others or come under criticism, so most viewers can see a little bit of Brydie in themselves.

The gypsies are, in general, a kind and very welcome break for Brydie. Roibin gives off minor creep vibes because he seems to care for her so intensely and so immediately, but it’s clear that his intentions are good. The contrast of the way Brydie is treated during her time with the gypsies as opposed to her experiences in the town provides a welcome break for both the character and the viewer, leading the audience reaction to be much more favorable to the gypsies than the townspeople.

While the mean-town-versus-sorry-young-girl premise is certainly intriguing, the plot isn’t what keeps the viewer invested in this film. The diverse and well-acted cast of characters is what keep’s the viewer’s attention.

Gypsy Girl is a sweet and simple but not dull coming-of-age tale. There is some sadness and quite a bit of drama involved, but in general Brydie’s journey ends up to be a positive one that is satisfying for the viewer as well. The score: 3/5

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