Misplaced hate from the cancel culture mob aside, this debut film features superb performances from the kids, but as an exploration of the erosion of traditional values amid a culture of overt sexualisation, it doesn’t really go deep nor is it entirely convincing.
Dir. Maimouna Doucoure
2020 | France | Drama | 96 mins | 2.35:1 | French, Wolof & Arabic
NC16 (Netflix rating) for sexual references and coarse language involving young children
Cast: Fathia Youssouf, Medina El Aidi-Azouni, Esther Gohourou
Plot: Amy, an 11-year-old girl, joins a group of dancers named “The Cuties” at school, and rapidly grows aware of her burgeoning femininity – upsetting her mother and her values in the process.
Awards: Won Directing Award – World Cinema Dramatic (Sundance); Nom. for Crystal Bear & Generation Prize (Berlinale)
International Sales: Bac Films (SG: Netflix)
Subject Matter: Moderate – Children, Society, Sexualisation
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
Cuties has over the past year or so suffered the ignominy of being labelled a child exploitation flick. Winning a directing award at Sundance, this debut feature by Maimouna Doucoure certainly deserves so much better.
After a self-inflicted marketing mishap from Netflix (who acquired it, so it’s not an original) in which the film was accused by the self-righteous cancel culture mob of advocating the sexualisation of children, except that it was really all misplaced hate stemming from a lack of understanding of context.
The truth is that Cuties is an important film, one that would naturally spark conversations over how a culture of overt sexualisation continues to affect kids, particularly children who have been brought up in more conservative families that pride on traditional values.
In Cuties, Amy, an 11-year-old girl, teams up with a group of dancers for a dance competition, not without facing peer pressure, shaming and a host of other obstacles.
Channelling her inner rebelliousness, Amy becomes obsessed with flaunting her own femininity, or what society deems as sexually attractive, continuing down a path that gets her in a lot of trouble.
The performances by the kids are superb, though they are not enough to elevate a film that I feel doesn’t quite work out convincingly.
In fact, the narrative becomes wobblier and less nuanced as it churns along, with the clash between traditional and undesirable values proving to be more of a matter for plot resolution than a deep engagement with the issues at stake.
Still, that doesn’t diminish the fact that Cuties is a misunderstood picture that needs no apologies from anyone, maybe except Netflix.