Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Girlhood (2015) review


Like Blue is the Warmest Colour, the original title of Bande de Filles is a much more accurate description of this film, as compared to its much more user friendly English language title, probably decided upon to act as an counterpoint to Richard Linklater's indulgent Boyhood. While Linklater's film showed the general malaise of a young white boy, whose prospects always turn out pretty well, Girlhood explores the life of Marieme (Karidja Touré), who, from the onset, we learn really has no prospects.

The main focus is that of sisterhood, and the importance of it in a society that has no time for girls that don't fit in to the standard mould. Marieme relishes in the playing American football with other girls, in an opening scene that wonderfully unveils their shared passion, but is instantly put back in her place when she goes back home to a set of flats where the glare of young men is enough to intimidate. Her mother is uninterested and virtually non-existent, and her elder brother brother has no qualms with threatening her, if only for the sake of his own pride. A faceless teacher tell her that she is unqualified to enter high school, and despite her pleas, is told her only option is an apprenticeship. It is at this precise moment of humiliation she encounters a girl gang, three young women who embody the audacity and charm that she yearns for in herself. Invited to go along to Paris, she discovers a sense of place with these girls, and starts exuding pride in her new found identity.


Inspired by the completely lack of noticeable black actresses in France, director Céline Sciamma set to explore the world of these young women she would see at train stations and shopping centres. Early on in the film we see an incident of racism, where Marieme is shadowed by a white clothes shop clerk, who is then called out by the other girls. Marieme's decline comes from losing confidence in her new friends and even her younger sisters. She starts work under local drug dealer Abou (Djibril Gueye) as a runner, the more favourable of the two options handed to her. Marieme starts to despise her own femininity: binding her chest, cutting her hair short, and even mocking girls who don't respond to the intimidating cat calling of her male "colleagues". She see's this as a form of protection, a way of making herself undesirable, but its only when she allows a woman back into her life that she realises what a mistake she's made.

While the story arc may not be the most original, the reasons for Marieme's retributions are what make this film stand out. While other films may preach that blood is thicker than water, or all she needs is a "good man", Girlhood makes no secret that the most positive elements of Marieme's life have come from female friends she made outside of the homestead, whether that's her fellow American football players or her girl gang, who, on the outset, look violent and rude, but nevertheless have Marieme's best interests at heart.


The films ending, although slightly ambiguous, leaves on a positive note, and we left with the understanding that Marieme has learnt something about herself that nobody can take away from her. Never falling into the cliche, Girlhood contains nuanced acting, a subtle script, and an agenda that easily transcends the cinema.

7/10

Layla

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