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The Controversial Erotic Thriller Blowing Up On Netflix Right Now

Netflix is often a place where movies can find a second life. That appears to be what's happening to one of the most controversial movies of 2024: "Miller's Girl." The movie is about the complicated romantic relationship between an 18-year-old girl, Cairo Sweet (Jenna Ortega), and her much older creative writing teacher, Jonathan Miller (Martin Freeman). "Miller's Girl" drew controversy when it premiered in January, with critics being united in how much they detested the film's quality and contentious subject matter. Netflix subscribers may be curious to see what all the hubbub is about, as it's the second most-watched movie on the platform on April 30. 

Perhaps no one wanted to give money to such a project while it was in theaters, as "Miller's Girl" grossed less than $1 million worldwide despite Ortega being an "It Girl" in Hollywood. Considering the movie's questionable handling of sensitive topics with real-world relevance, plenty of people stayed far away, which makes sense given what most critics had to say. Alonso Duralde of Breakfast All Day went straight for the throat when describing the film: "My worst list of 2024 starts right here."

Critics say Miller's Girl doesn't handle its central age gap relationship well

There's been a greater emphasis on pointing out uncomfortable age gaps in movies, which typically involve an older man pairing up with a much younger woman. Martin Freeman is 31 years older than Jenna Ortega, so "Miller's Girl" falls within that camp. However, the movie is explicitly about such an inappropriate relationship, and while it could've handled it with taste, it doesn't seem like that happened. There's also a conversation to be had about power dynamics and how Cairo manipulates the situation with Jonathan to her advantage. This plays into real-world concerns where a genuine victim of grooming or sexual assault will be called a "liar" to try to protect the person with the actual power in the relationship, with "Miller's Girl" potentially reinforcing that typically false concept. 

A better movie may have been able to thread that needle or at least lean more into campier themes, but "Miller's Girl" doesn't accomplish that. Polygon writer Tasha Robinson strongly dislikes the film, saying, "'Miller's Girl' just skims the surface, and settles for making that surface look visually sumptuous." It's interesting how "Miller's Girl" is now on Netflix, as the streaming platform released a movie just a few months earlier about another age gap relationship — "May December." However, that film earned a ton of praise for its nuance and handling of the ramifications of such a dynamic with maturity. "Miller's Girl" appears to prefer scandal over substance.

Now, people can make up their own minds regarding "Miller's Girl" by watching it on Netflix. Maybe general audiences will reach different conclusions than most critics. 

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).