Thursday, 15 September 2011

Tomboy ★★★★☆

Released this Friday, Tomboy, is director Celine Sciamma's delightful follow up to Water Lillies. Below is my review from The Edinburgh International Film Festival. This has to be one of my personal favorites this year and celebrate I've also embeded a short film by Sciamma for your viewing pleasure.


Celine Sci­amma won much noto­ri­ety with her debut fea­ture Water Lilies, a female com­ing of age drama which stood as another exam­ple of French cinema’s glo­ri­ously joy­ful abil­ity to cap­ture the raw emo­tional energy which sur­rounds ado­les­cence.
Tomboy very much car­ries on from where Water Lilies left off, deal­ing with female inse­cu­ri­ties. This time our cen­tral pro­tag­o­nist is Laure (Zoe Heran), a 10-year-old girl with issues of gen­der con­fu­sion. When her fam­ily moves to a town just out­side Paris, Laure, with her indis­tin­guish­able dress sense and short hair, takes this oppor­tu­nity to recre­ate her­self not just with a new iden­tity but a whole new sex.
On her first encounter with one of the neigh­bour­hood kids, she announces her­self as Michael in what is just the start of a lie which nat­u­rally spi­rals out of con­trol. It’s not a dif­fi­cult thing to believe as this glo­ri­fied tomboy, in her grey vest and uni­sex hoodie, has yet to enter puberty and could eas­ily pass as either an effem­i­nate boy or manly young girl. Even Lisa, a young inse­cure girl from the same apart­ment block, is con­vinced, and devel­ops a crush for Michael, which Laure has no qualms in rec­i­p­ro­cat­ing.
She goes to great lengths to hide her true sex­u­al­ity from her new found friends, from rop­ing her younger sis­ter into this game of deceit all the way to run­ning into the for­est every time she needs to uri­nate. As the stakes esca­late, she even goes as far as destroy­ing her bathing suit to cre­ate a more mas­cu­line pair of speedos, whilst fash­ion­ing a crude makeshift penis out of play­dough to fin­ish of the look.
How­ever, as she falls deeper into this new arti­fi­cial per­sona, cracks start to appear within her frag­ile facade. Sud­denly, the real­i­sa­tion dawns that once these glo­ri­ously fun filled sum­mer hol­i­days come to an end and the school term com­mences, it’ll become almost impos­si­ble for her true iden­tity to be shielded from her new group of friends, some of which, Lisa included, may not take so kindly to such a gross degree of deceit…
Sciamma’s min­i­mal direc­tion in this insight­ful explo­ration of the mys­ti­fy­ing awk­ward­ness of child­hood allows the per­for­mances of her strik­ingly assured young cast to tell the story with great effect. Zoe Heran and Mal­onn Lev­ana, as the two sis­ters, have the type of nat­u­ral­is­tic, immac­u­lately con­structed on screen rela­tion­ship that should by rights be impos­si­ble to recre­ate by those so young. Heran’s appear­ance as our epony­mous tomboy is excep­tional, pulling of this uni­sex role with great aplomb and never seem­ing uncom­fort­able with the mature sub­ject mat­ter or com­plex issues asked of her. Despite the min­i­mal use of dia­logue, she con­fi­dently uses body lan­guage to cap­ture the inter­nal con­flict of her char­ac­ters self-imposed dilemma, whilst simul­ta­ne­ously her strik­ingly expres­sive eyes main­tain a level of inno­cent charm that both con­veys her con­fused men­tal state whilst also dri­ving the nar­ra­tive for­ward.
This sub­tly nat­ural obser­va­tion of the dif­fi­cul­ties which envelop the seem­ingly all impor­tant search for accep­tance amongst pre-teens is a lov­ingly crafted, con­fi­dent and refresh­ingly unique film, which per­fectly encap­su­lates its sub­ject mat­ter in what can only be described as a joy­fully pure and lov­ingly sweet tale which deserves to be seen by a much larger audi­ence.

Instant Score: 4
Retrospective Score: 4.5
Total: 8.5

Pauline - a short movie by Celine Sciamma

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