Gal Young ‘Un (1979)

Gal Young ‘Un (1979)

“I’m too quick for ya, old lady.”

Lonely widow Mattie Siles (Dana Preu) falls for sweet-talking Trax (David Peck), who wants her money to build himself a still. When his moonshine operation becomes successful, he starts running around with other women — but when he brings Gal Young ‘Un (J. Smith-Cameron) home to live with them, Mattie plots her revenge.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Bootlegging
  • Deep South
  • Prohibition
  • Revenge
  • Widows and Widowers

Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, this “absorbing low-budget independent film” by Victor Nunez — director of Ruby in Paradise (1993) and Ulee’s Gold (1997) — is “poignant yet unsentimental”. Based on a short story by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, the plot builds slowly but surely; by the end, we’re completely invested in what happens to Mattie, and rooting for her all the way. Preu (who only performed in one other film) is wonderfully natural, and Smith-Cameron does a fine job as the meek Gal Young ‘Un, who “has been just as exploited by Peck as Preu has been”, and simply wants Mattie — or somebody — to like her. As Peary notes, it’s “impressive… how so much of what the two women are feeling is conveyed by their eyes and expressions and how they hug Preu’s cat rather than by words (which is essential since these women aren’t the type to gab).”

Redeeming Qualities:

  • Dana Preu as Mattie
  • Smith-Cameron as Gal Young ‘Un

Must See?
No, but it’s highly recommended.


One thought on “Gal Young ‘Un (1979)

  1. Not a must.

    First viewing.

    Not an easy film to assess, really. Given the setting and situation, it didn’t call for much beyond low-budgeting – and that’s certainly what it got. It’s been produced well for what it is – and Nunez has efficiently…and a little too effectively…captured the story he set out to tell. It’s a depressing tale (as films by Nunez tend to be) and – at least in the case here – one wonders a bit why Nunez bothered: we see where things are headed early on and the course toward the conclusion remains bleak and steady.

    The film does make one interesting observation: even a good nature can be susceptible to a bad one and take on its properties. That’s a subtle point that’s only touched on as things wind up; it might have been nice to see that play out some.

    For viewers, there isn’t a whole lot here that saves us from simply wanting to be away from the sad, pathetic goings-on. The leads do a fine job on the level of independent filmmaking but it almost doesn’t matter. Far from “poignant”, this is one sorry set-up all-around.

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