Woman-of-the-moment Beanie Feldstein helms this adaptation of Caitlin Moran’s wickedly funny book How to Build a Girl, sadly arriving in the UK with very little fanfare after a delayed release.

Feldstein plays Johanna, an awkward teenage girl who suddenly finds herself a small amount of fame as a writer. While it may be initially surprising to have an American actor play the lead in what is an incredibly British film, Feldstein brings the same warmth and relatability that she did for Booksmart and Lady Bird. While her Wolverhampton accent may be a bit hit-and-miss, there’s no questioning that she was the perfect choice for Johanna.

The casting, in general, is spot on, with Paddy Considine and Sarah Solemani playing Johanna’s parents, Alfie Allen her love interest, and a small role for Emma Thompson. With Moran writing the screenplay for her own adaptation, none of the humour is lost or cleaned up in any way – it’s still wonderfully filthy and very British. 

Unfortunately, How to Build a Girl falls down where lots of book adaptations do: it simply can’t cram all of the good stuff into a 100-minute runtime. Standout scenes from the book are scrapped, and Johanna’s shift from a teenager living with her family on a Wolverhampton estate to a successful music journalist in London all happens far too quickly. There are only the briefest glimpses into her life at home before she escapes it, making the film as a whole feel rushed. The meagre character development doesn’t impact the comedy, but it does make some of the key cast feel sadly two-dimensional. 

Fans of the book will undoubtedly find joy in seeing Johanna brought to life in this colourful and fun adaptation, and Feldstein continues to cement herself as a fantastic comedic actress.


Available to watch on: Amazon Prime, VOD


CAST: Beanie Feldstein, Paddy Considine, Laurie Kynaston, Alfie Allen, Sarah Solemani, Emma Thompson

DIRECTOR: Coky Giedroyc

WRITER: Caitlin Moran (screenplay, and novel)

SYNOPSIS: A teenager living with her working-class family on a council estate in Wolverhampton, England, grows up to become a popular but conflicted music journalist.