Girlhood (2014)

Sciamma’s nuanced if immersive coming-of-age drama fizzles out somewhat by the end, but her strong compassion for her characters remains resolute throughout.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Dir. Celine Sciamma
2014 | France | Drama | 113 mins | 2.35:1 | French
NC16 (passed clean) for some drug use and coarse language

Cast: Karidja Toure, Assa Sylla, Lindsay Karamoh
Plot: A girl with few real prospects joins a gang, reinventing herself and gaining a sense of self confidence in the process. However, she soon finds that this new life does not necessarily make her any happier.
Awards: Nom. for Queer Palm & Official Selection – Directors’ Fortnight (Cannes)
International Sales: Films Distribution

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Coming-of-age
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Viewed: The Projector
Spoilers: No

As I was watching Girlhood, the film Celine Sciamma made before Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019), I was reminded of Divines (2016), another French film by a female director that depicts the story of a rebellious minority female teenager from a French suburb. 

Although I find Divines to be the more remarkable film of the two, Girlhood has its moments of brilliance as a coming-of-age drama. 

Sciamma’s style is immersive, particularly the way she lets the camera linger around her main character, Marieme (a fantastic performance from the perfectly cast Karidja Toure in her acting debut), as she interacts with her new clique.

Or the use of invigorating songs that captures the ‘beat’ of Marieme’s generation—in what might be the most memorable scene in Girlhood, Marieme’s quartet of gangster girls dance feverishly to the entirety of Rihanna’s ‘Diamonds’ as they spend a night in a hotel, far away from family. 

During some of the film’s more introspective moments, Sciamma gives Marieme her ‘alone time’—and I feel it is this interplay between the character’s internal conflict over her long-term future, and the various paths she has appeared to have carved out in the immediate term that gives Girlhood its nuanced outlook. 

The film does fizzle out somewhat by the end (I think many would disagree with me), but Sciamma’s strong compassion for her characters remains resolute throughout. 

In the final analysis, Girlhood is by no means an extraordinary film, but it lends an extraordinary voice to the communities of youth that are sometimes unfairly judged upon by their attitude and action. 

Grade: B+



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