‘The Starling Girl’ Trailer: Eliza Scanlen Sins with Her Youth Pastor in Sundance Favorite

Lewis Pullman and Austin Abrams also star in writer-director Laurel Parmet's Christian coming-of-age drama.
The Starling Girl
"The Starling Girl"
Bleecker Street

Sexuality and sin are closely aligned in writer-director Laurel Parmet’s coming-of-age drama “The Starling Girl,” set in a fundamentalist Christian community.

Eliza Scanlen stars as 17-year-old Jem Starling who develops a crush, and subsequently inappropriate relationship, with a new youth pastor. Per the official synopsis, 17-year-old Jem Starling (Scanlen) struggles to define her place within her fundamentalist Christian community in rural Kentucky. Even her greatest joy of dancing with the church group is tempered by worry that her actions are sinful and she is caught between a burgeoning awareness of her own sexuality and her religious devotion. With the return of Owen (Lewis Pullman), an enigmatic youth pastor, Jem soon finds herself attracted to his worldliness and charm. Slowly, he draws her into a dangerous relationship that could upend their entire community.

Wrenn Schmidt, Austin Abrams, and Jimmi Simpson also star.

IndieWire critic David Ehrlich praised the film for being a “gripping and well-realized drama” that subverts the clichés of abuse in the Christian faith.

For “The Starling Girl,” writer-director Parmet spent months interviewing members of communities that experienced church abuse. The production brought on consultants during the script revision process and also to serve as a resource for the cast.

“We live in a very patriarchal culture. Like it or not, our country is very much affected by conservative Christian thought,” Parmet said during the 2023 IndieWire Sundance Studio. “I think sexual shame is a universal experience for women.”

She continued, “I had a similar relationship in this film when I was a teenager with an older man, and I had a lot of guilt about it afterward. I had a lot of agency in the relationship; I really pursued him and didn’t think about it for a really long time. I decided that I wanted to look back at my relationship and set it in this world that has a lot in common with our world and as a reflection of what we experience.”

“The Starling Girl” premieres in theaters in New York and Los Angeles May 12, followed by additional theaters May 19.

Check out the trailer below.

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