This slight, yet involving fly on-the-wall expose works well off of the vulnerability of the modeling world.
Girl Model takes no time in getting the viewer initiated into the industry's harsh, exploitative end with interesting vantage points from 13-year-old Nadya Vall (a farmer's daughter) and former model and scout Ashley Arbaugh as pre-pubescents from a gelid Siberia hope to get their opportunity in the Japanese limelight through an agency called Switch.
Nadya's arrival has her earning not very much for a couple of guaranteed jobs as her contract is dependent on her waistline; her situation is transposed with Ashley's frustrations in her position to line up the latest crop for Switch even as her praetorian superior feels this legal trafficking is ultimately good for them. The money spent for girls who often don't get on the production line reveal a "Messiah" who "just really likes models."
The somewhat amateurish (read: some of the lensing, in particular) filmmaking offers an unoriginal, yet unsettling reality of how aspirations are handled for its business; being with Nadya in Tokyo with no support system (including the language barriers) hits hard as she is driven to lessen the financial strife back home.
"Girl Model" is hardly garish or ebullient in rendering an understated, fairly nonjudgmental portrait that allows an observational tact sometimes dwelling on Nadya and even those younger than her in circumstances that may be more far-reaching later in life. Especially as Japan wants to saturate the market with more youth. Obviously, being around Ashley can be rather gloomy with the domestic disparity between her and Nadya, but this documentary, plodding as it may be, still is mindful of its often unsavory subject.