Girlhood

Review by Anton Bitel @AntBit

Directed by

Céline Sciamma

Starring

Assa Sylla Karidja Touré Lindsay Karamoh

Anticipation.

We adored Céline Sciamma’s Tomboy.

Enjoyment.

The distaff side to Linklater’s (unrelated) Boyhood.

In Retrospect.

This gendered rites of passage is a bittersweet triumph.

This quietly radical and poetic teen drama depicts the black experience in the suburbs of Paris.

In a hired hotel room and a stolen dress, 16-year-old Marieme (first-timer Karidja Touré) proudly bears her new street name, ‘Vic’, dancing with borrowed moves and lip-syncing to someone else’s song in a language not her own. All this appropriation marks the aspirations and ambitions of young black French women unable to find what they crave from within their own immediate environment. Marieme’s need to look outwards for forms of self-expression is reflected in the fact than no other French film before Girlhood has ever focused on the experience of black girls.

Even as Marieme enjoys this snatched moment with the three other members of her bande de filles (‘girl gang’, the film’s original title), she knows that her bubble of happiness will soon burst, and that the injunction of gang leader Lady (Asa Sylla) to “do what you want” is near impossible to realise. Excluded from high school, and kept from openly seeing her boyfriend by her older brother’s violent disapproval, her future in the banlieue seems restricted to the long hours and low pay of her mother, or to prostitution.

The latest exploration of female adolescence from Céline Sciamma (Water Lilies, Tomboy), Girlhood is a fly-on-the-wall, over-the-shoulder exposé of a young woman’s life in a very specific ethnic and cultural milieu, and yet its realism is offset by the stylised recurrence of the number four: four girls in the gang; several key scenes taking place under the sign of Les Quatre Temps in the La Défense district; and a quadripartite structure for the film itself. These are four steps to freedom, as Marieme, at each stage on her journey towards independence, cuts another tie to her past, with defiance and determination her only bulwarks against highly circumscribed Parisian prospects.

Published 7 May 2015

Tags: French Cinema

Anticipation.

We adored Céline Sciamma’s Tomboy.

Enjoyment.

The distaff side to Linklater’s (unrelated) Boyhood.

In Retrospect.

This gendered rites of passage is a bittersweet triumph.

Read More

Divines – first look review

By Ed Frankl

There’s shades of Céline Sciamma’s Girlhood in Houda Benyamina’s stirring debut.

100 great movies by female directors – part 1

By Little White Lies

Read part one of our countdown celebrating the greatest female artists in the film industry.

The Unknown Girl – first look review

By David Jenkins

Adèle Haenel turns amateur sleuth as the Dardenne brothers try their hand at the murder-mystery genre.

What are you looking for?

Little White Lies Logo

About Little White Lies

Little White Lies was established in 2005 as a bi-monthly print magazine committed to championing great movies and the talented people who make them. Combining cutting-edge design, illustration and journalism, LWLies has been described as being “at the vanguard of the independent publishing movement.” Our reviews feature a unique tripartite ranking system that captures the different aspects of the movie-going experience. We believe in Truth & Movies.

Editorial

Design