Today I finally got to see the new film, Girlhood (Bande de Filles), from the director of 2011’s Tomboy, Celine Sciamma.
The film opens with an exhilarating sequence of girls playing gridiron. Their boisterous comradery continues as they walk home after the game, members of the team peeling off until we are left with 16 year-old Marieme. We are introduced to her home life. She lives with her mostly absent, working mother, violent brother and two younger sisters in one of the high-rise, project-like suburbs of outer Paris.
Early in the film, Marieme is advised that due to poor grades, she is unable to go to High School. Directionless and with time on her hands, she meets a trio of confident, charismatic and sharp-talking girls and joins their gang. While she finds a sense of belonging and identity with her new friends, she also begins making choices that take her on unexpected paths. And yes, it’s a French realist film so those paths aren’t so cheery.
There are some unforgettable scenes in this film. At one point the girls rent a hotel room and, tipsy on booze, weed and freedom they dance and lip sync to Rihanna’s song, Diamonds. I don’t think anyone could watch that scene and not feel the raw innocence and naivety of teenage hopes and dreams.
Other scenes are just heartbreaking. There’s the perpetual downward, affectless gaze of Marieme; the unspoken rules of gender; the ever-present threat of violence; and the adult-viewer’s knowledge that she could fully live her nickname Vic (for Victory) if only she knew what was possible in a world of quickly diminishing possibilities.
I really liked this film. It’s not a comfortable experience for all its almost two-hour duration (especially the first hour of squealing teenage girls) but as a whole it’s a remarkable portrayal of a girl stepping into adulthood.
See it on the big screen.