Girlhood Review by InterActive member Esther Vincent

Posted 18 May 2015 about Girlhood.

InterActive member Esther Vincent has written a great review for Girlhood, continuing this week at The Showroom. Esther wins two free tickets to a film of her choice at the Showroom. We are on the lookout for more film reviewers aged 15-18, so please get in touch with laura.hegarty@showroomworkstation.org.uk for more information about InterActive.

In a beautiful and powerful sister to ‘Boyhood’, Céline Sciamma examines life as a teenage girl in a way that goes above and beyond than the media’s usual depiction of adolescence. Marieme has generally low academic prospects, and joins a girl gang expecting not to fit in; she begins by feeling the all too common combination of both inclusion and exclusion. Instead, after a while, she finds comfort, support and friendship, a theme explored very deeply throughout the film.

What makes this film so beautiful is how easy it is to empathise with; the characters are likeable because they aren’t sensationalised, told they can change their destinies or given epic journeys. They are, well, normal. And in current cinema, that’s something we don’t get to see very often. These girls didn’t have great prospects but they loved each other and this film highlights that and makes us examine the friendships in our own lives. From the very first moment we are rooting for these girls; the girls who don’t have the most affluent home lives, who don’t excel academically but love strongly, who have downtrodden by the men in their lives but would kill to protect each other.

That isn’t to say that Sciamma’s work isn’t beautifully filmed. Marieme goes through many hardships, such as a problematic relationship and having to deal with an abusive brother with only her sisters for comfort. But she endures everything that’s thrown at her, and plenty of close, emotional shots are used to highlight how strong she is. These lingering moments of cinematography are what makes this film so powerful. Sciamma’s work is more minimalistic than common box office hits, and the music was used sparingly yet effectively. The piece in the trailer is used as a refrain throughout the film, and this is usually at a moment where Marieme is feeling powerful or is supported by her friends – the music only emphasises the raw emotionality of the scenes.

Girlhood explores a wide range of issues, but from a very human angle. Marieme’s struggles aren’t exaggerated, but portrayed as a normal part of her life. One of the first scenes depicts Marieme coming home to her younger sisters at night, both of them having made dinner for themselves. Their mother is a rare presence in the film, and this alluded to, sadly, how common it is for teenagers to end up living the life of a young carer. Although the other friendships are examined closely, I would have really loved to have seen more emphasis on Marieme’s relationship with her sister; this was addressed at the beginning of the film and it was lovely to watch the how close they were through their mutual experiences.

The film also contains hints of domestic abuse; this instantly bonded sympathetic viewers to the sisters. However, this wasn’t overdone, and the fact that the focus of the film digressed to other issues really added to the sense of strength and endurance around the protagonist’s character.

Despite the sometimes melancholy subject matter, the protagonist’s moments with her friends do not contrast too starkly with her time at home. All of the environments Marieme and her friends are filmed in are bright and full of energy. It provides an insider’s look into life inside a girl gang and the nuances of French street culture, and the balance was just right. Overall, the fluctuation between positive moments and negativity provided a very empathetic, human perspective of young female life.

Laura Hegarty

Audience Development CoordinatorRead more posts by Laura Hegarty

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