A Tale of Grooming
Regan (Emma Fuhrmann - The Magic of Belle Isle) is a smart kid but makes a bad decision when she decides to send a sexy photo of herself to some school friends because her best friend Sabine (Olivia Nikkanen) also did it. It inevitably gets back to her parents, Abby (Heather McComb - No One Would Tell), a nurse, and Jim (Joey Lawrence - Saved by Grace), who works for a youth organization, who after learning that Regan also bunked off school takes some extreme measures to control what she does online and on her phone. It leads to Regan sneaking out to spend time with her new friend, Nate (Travis Caldwell), an older guy who is the receptionist at the medical practice where her mum works. What Regan doesn't realise is that not only is Nate grooming her but is behind a series of problems as Jim may not get the promotion he is expecting as the photos of Regan are sent to members of the board.
"Girl Followed" is one of those movies which in part wants to be a cautionary tale as we watch how a naive teenager with some self esteem issues not only posts sexy pictures of herself online without considering the consequences but easily gets taken in by an older guy who seems friendly and genuinely interested in her. Of course what we see is an older guy who spots a teen with vulnerabilities and sets about manipulating her, pulling her strings and so on. In truth it is frightening to see how someone with a psychological understanding of a lonely teen's inner thoughts can easily groom them.
But there is more to "Girl Followed" than just this cautionary tale as not only is Nate a danger to Regan but he is a danger to others as well. As such we see how he messes with both Jim's life as well as Abby's and puts others in danger. It is not only the more typical side of this TV movie but in some ways waters down the cautionary side as it turns "Girl Followed" inro more a case of protective parents and daughter dealing with a dangerous man with a psychotic side. And trust me this feels rushed when it comes to the conclusion with so many flaws that it is laughable as cops and doctors hand out information.
Now I am a big fan of Joey Lawrence but I have to be honest and say that when it comes to doing drama he some times struggles to be believable and this is the case in "Girl Followed" or at least until the story evolves with him becoming the desperate dad taking matters in to his own hands. Fortunately Heather McComb as Abby delivers a much more natural performance as the troubled mum whilst Emma Fuhrmann is convincing as a struggling teenager who is easily manipulated because of low self-esteem. And then there is Travis Caldwell who certainly does a nice job of having his character play on his looks, but for me doesn't make him dangerous enough in a truly psychotic TV movie character manner.
What this all boils down to is that "Girl Followed" is a movie of positives and negatives. The positives are in highlighting how easy it is for a naive teen to end up being groomed by someone who knows how to manipulate them. But the negatives are the more typical TV movie elements as Nate doesn't just groom a child but messes with people's lives.