Girl on Film: Cecil Castellucci’s Journey Through Memory and Her Filmmaker Dreams

a blurred image of the author

Girl on Film

Jon Berg (artist), Cecil Castellucci (writer), Melissa Duffy (artist), V. Gagnon (artist), Kieran Quigley (colourist), Joanna Lafuente (colourist), Vicky Leta (artist), Mike Fiorentino (letterer)
Archaia (Boom Studios)
November 27, 2019

When Cecil Castellucci first saw Star Wars: A New Hope, her future was sealed. She would become a filmmaker. Girl on Film is her journey to not quite reaching that destination.

Cover of Girl on Film

Opening with a dramatic visualization of a woman who discovers and explores art on all different levels, is pulled by the waves of her own dreams, and must combat the voices and the monsters that would see her fail to achieve them, Castellucci grasps the sails and tells us exactly what Girl on Film is about:

“This is how I remember my voyage… And how I didn’t quite get there, but arrived here instead.”

Shifting away from the imagery, the graphic memoir goes back in time to a ten-year-old Castellucci obsessively watching movies — namely, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Superman, and more. Each artist stamps their own style on a period of Castellucci’s life — and hairstyles, which manage to uniquely embody the emotions and experiences of the given time period. But her earlier years are my favourite. Melissa Duffy captures all the melodrama and motion typical of a preteen for whom every decision is life or death, tragedy or ecstasy, from auditions to acceptance letters, to what’s for dinner.

Vicky Leta’s illustrations take adult Castellucci through the process of writing and researching her graphic memoir, incorporating her father’s scientific teachings about memory. Though his theories and explanations bored her as a youth, they take on far greater meaning when she works to weave them into a memoir, admittedly not necessarily remembering everything exactly as it should be since she is human, after all. A good book should always leave you with something learned, and this exploration of what Castellucci truly knows and remembers about herself and the events that shape her provides a unique opportunity to consider the same for ourselves.

Throughout the book, Castellucci holds steadfast to her dream of becoming a filmmaker, announcing it loudly and proudly to everyone she meets, including teachers, friends, and celebrities like Andy Warhol. She makes her way through arts school, swooning pathetically over a teenaged boy who doesn’t even know her name. But he, like many after him, is her muse and, for all the sappy poems and plays she wrote about him, there is so much to learn. She doesn’t shy away from opening the doors to the inner workings of her younger self’s mind and the illusions she clung to. But the beauty of this memoir is that, throughout it all, even when money and skills were lacking, even and especially when others questioned her dreams or left her behind, her determination shines through.

As the final pages began to turn, I wondered how she would get to the happy ending I was so certain would come, but therein lies the twist. The journey to achieving one’s dreams is never a straightforward path, and sometimes, it takes the most unexpected turns, becoming something else entirely, because here we are reading the graphic novel memoir of an Eisner-award nominated novel and comic writer. Castellucci has not become the filmmaker she dreamed she would be.

But who’s to say she’s stopped dreaming?

Wendy Browne

Wendy Browne

Publisher, mother, geek, executive assistant sith, gamer, writer, lazy succubus, blogger, bibliophile. Not necessarily in that order.