Back in 2012, provocateur filmmaker/photographer Larry Clark (Kids, Ken Park) directed Marfa Girl, a bleak look at the life of a 16 year old-skater, Adam and the relationships he forms and ruins in the small desert-town of Marfa, Texas. Despite little praise for the film, Clark’s passion for the content has led him to create his first ever sequel. For a director whose body of work is so fixated on examining characters in a short time frame (Kids is set in a 24 hour period), Marfa Girl 2 is the first time Clark has allowed his characters to face down the consequences of their hedonistic actions.
We revisit Adam and the other residents of Marfa a couple of years down the line from the previous film. Adam is now a father to two children with two different women; Inez, his live-in girlfriend and Donna. Marfa Girl (Drake Burnette) also has a child now, a product of the violent rape she endured at the end of the first film. The women of Marfa Girl 2 struggle with the disappointment and anger directed towards the men in their lives: Adam’s mother wishes he would get a job, his kids’ mothers wish he would financially support the children’s upbringing and Marfa Girl sees the face of her rapist every time she looks at her baby. Adam, however, seems to have made little progress.
The lack-lustre but seemingly irresistible deadbeat skater is truly a lost cause, and this sequel would be a perfect moment for a character arc but Adam is unfortunately irredeemable. His life of sex, weed and ignoring responsibilities wore thin in the last film but becomes just about unbearable as his immaturity shines on as the women around him strive for balance. The film’s loose plot charts Adam and the other Marfa residents’ progress and failures as they grow older, still revelling in sex and drugs, despite their new found responsibilities.
Frequent and explicitly detailed sex scenes are no new addition to Clark’s work. Skinny, youthful bodies are examined and lusted over with his camera, constantly teetering on a line that feels at one moment appreciative and natural to then borderline perverse. This free attitude to sex harks back to a scene with Marfa Girl in the first film, which is for some purpose replayed in the second, when she states that “Sex is just another form of communication”. While I’m sure Clark had a perfectly symbolic reasoning behind these young people’s bodies so regularly ‘conversing’, it never really seems to say anything at all when there is so little development in most of the characters. The lack of character progression is not assisted by the films incredibly short run-time either, cut from 106 minutes to 77, one can only imagine the amount of unnecessary crotch shots we missed out on.
Marfa Girl 2 seems like a penultimate marker of Clark’s career, looking back on a body of work that has potentially glorified the violence, destruction and poverty within America. Clark’s naturalistic and often grimy film-making style once held an important place in youth-led cinema, reflecting on the outermost fringes of society and subculture. But for a lesser-known film’s sequel to work, there has to be something worth going back to. The decision to stare down characters that have never faced repercussions for their terrible actions is certainly a brave one at that, one that goes against the grain of Clark’s usual snapshot-in-time storytelling, but unfortunately for Marfa Girl 2, physicality is favoured over soul and his characters continue to not care about their lives, so why should we either?
by Chloe Leeson
Chloe Leeson is the founder of Screen Queens. She hails from the north of England (the proper north that people think is actually Scotland but isn’t). Her lifesource is Harmony Korine’s 90s Letterman interviews and Ezra Miller’s jawline. She is a costume designer for hire who spends way too much time watching bad horror movies. Her favourite films are Into The Wild, Lords of Dogtown, Stand by Me and Pan’s Labyrinth. She rants about cinema screenings @kawaiigoff and logs them on letterboxd here