In the summer of 1981, a nameless 10-year-old red-haired girl (Blanca Engström) is stunned when her father (Shanti Roney) and mother (Annika Hallin) take her brother with them to Africa on a project to assist poor and needy Africans and leave her behind; she can't go with them because the agency they are working with says she is too young. Her bohemian aunt (Tova Magnusson-Norling) comes to stay with her for the summer. This relative has, as she explains, a hard time dealing with the life cards she has been dealt. To numb the pain of loneliness and heartbreak, she drinks constantly and is unable to look after the girl or to even keep house. So the girl comes up with a daring plan that sends her aunt on a sailing trip with her new beau.
Alone, the resourceful child cleans the house and settles down to her first meal in silence. From her swimming lessons at a nearby lake, the girl knows Petter (Calle Kindqvist), a boy who lives on a neighboring farm. They hit it off and have several adventures, including one where the girl catches some tadpoles and decides to care for them in a little aquarium. She likes being with Petter, but their relationship is shattered when the girl goes along with two teenagers who pull a prank that embarrasses him. Having told no one about living alone, the girl finds interesting books to look at and pictures she hangs on a bulletin board as her own brand of memorabilia.
In his feature film debut, Fredrik Edfeldt has crafted a beguiling coming-of-age drama based on a screenplay by Karin Arrhenius. One of the most fascinating dimensions of the story is the authentic way this 10-year-old responds to the strange and eerie world of adults. She doesn't buy the half-baked excuses they give for what she sees as abandonment. She can't abide living with her irresponsible and self-destructive aunt, and she tries to steer clear of another officious neighbor who always insists that she sing a little song for him when they meet.
The Girl offers a meditative probe on the benefits of solitude. As Erica Jong has put it: "The most important education you get is your own — the one you learn in solitude." This 10-year-old adapts quite easily to having the time to savor walks, explore, and just sit in silence looking out the window on the wonders of the world. Her dream life is especially active during her time alone. A neighbor is there to help her when she faces some physical distress due to her poor eating habits. But, all in all, she makes the most out of her summer of solitude, which is quite different from the one she would have spent with her family. In the last scene in this enchanting film, the girl conquers a fear that had previously stopped her in her tracks. It is a moment when she harvests another personal triumph from the bounties of solitude.