When I was little, I had this crazy fantasy. I wanted to be able to live on my own without my parents or siblings around. In fact I alternated between living on a vast farm alone and living in the middle of a city alone. I wanted so badly to be independent and to be in charge of when I went to bed, when I ate and what I entertained myself with that I sometimes had fantasies of my family dying in a freak car crash and me left with the insurance money and the time to do whatever I wanted with it. Of course I am glad this fantasy never came to light. The reality of such a situation would look nowhere near the romantic visions I had. In the Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane, Rynn lives out this fantasy but it comes with some drastic consequences.
Rynn’s father rented a house in a sleepy town somewhere in the Northeast. He was a famous poet with a modest fortune. She is first seen on the night of her thirteenth birthday. She is blowing out candles to a cake she must have baked herself. A knock occurs at the door and it frightens her. It turns out to be Frank Hallet, the grown up son of the woman who rented the house to Rynn’s father. Very quickly the interaction between them turns into a creepy altercation. Frank hits on Rynn who is about thirteen in the grossest way possible. This seems to be her first interaction with the townspeople who live all around her. He finally leaves after his two sons appear in their Halloween costumes. The next day, Rynn gets into a situation with the landlord, Cora Hallet. Cora is a by every means an awful woman. She invades Rynn’s space, says disparaging things about minorities and her father being Jewish, and insists that on seeing Rynn’s father. We learn through the course of the film that Rynn’s father has just wandered off into the ocean where he died. Rynn keeps up the rouse that his father is a diligent worker and cannot be disturbed no matter what to everyone that insists on seeing him. You can tell by Rynn’s resourcefulness and contentment that she is used to being alone. But Cora will not leave her alone so she kills her. Not on purpose, but it happens anyway. Her Bentley sits in her driveway and she is frantic about what to do about it. A young man comes up on a bicycle is immediately enamoured with her. He helps her get the Bentley to a place where it would be inconspicuous and is invited in for dinner. Their relationship is given the same weight as it would if it were a couple in their early twenties. This boy helps Rynn cover up every murder she commits and loves her desperately through it all. But he gets sick with worry and pneumonia is hospitalized. Rynn is now left alone to defend herself against Frank when he decides to come back again.
Jodie Foster plays the main character and she is particularly underwhelming. In the trivia section of this movie on IMDb, it says that Jodie was very unhappy with the nude scene in the film (she was actually thirteen when she filmed this movie) and that she let it slip later on in life that this movie was her least favorite film she worked on. She seemed to have been on autopilot for most of the film. When I had seen her earlier efforts like in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore or Taxi Driver, she seemed to pop with her innate rebellious nature. The same is not true about this film. The director and writer of the film clearly had affection and sympathy for the character she played. But this sympathy easily bordered on pedophilia, especially the oddly placed nude scene that happened between her and her boyfriend. That scene did not have to happen that way. But from the accounts from the set it seemed that the director would have no other way. I also objected to the way that Cora and Frank Hallet were portrayed. They were very two-dimensional versions of predatory adults. No woman would be that angry at a young woman for moving the furniture around a little bit. And if she was, she would not also let it slip that she resented Rynn’s father for being Jewish. If Frank was so obviously a pedophile why wasn’t he locked up or in some kind of rehab center? Why was he able to walk around freely and visit a house known for lonely and by her self young girl? Several different characters say tell Rynn that everyone knows about everything that happens in that town, so why doesn’t everyone know that Frank has the hots for her? Of course if they had known than Rynn would feel no threat and the movie would not come to an end quite as dramatically as it did.
Several times throughout the film, various adults tell Rynn that she is acting too old for her age and that they discredit her for being so young. Rynn even yells out “How old do you have to be before you start getting treated like an adult.” This statement has probably been uttered, proclaimed, and even yelled by so many teenagers in this world. But the problem is that she is not an adult. This is one thing I think the directors miss in telling this story. She is rash. She is naive. She is still young. She needs to be treated like her age otherwise she will grow up murdering people in order to solve her problems. This movie doesn’t give any weight to her killing her landlord. They let her off the hook. To let someone like this off the hook deflate the whole film. Deflation is the ultimate sin in filmmaking.