REVIEW: Girlhood

24 02 2015

GirlhoodWriter/director Céline Sciamma’s third feature bears the title “Bande de Filles” in its native French tongue, which translates roughly to band (or group) of girls.  Yet the English release of the film gives it this name: “Girlhood.”  The title seems not only ill-fitting but also begging for immediate foiling against Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood.”

Such a comparison is facile and does a disservice to Sciamma’s wonderfully observed film.  She does not aim to provide a wide-ranging snapshot of female youth.  “Girlhood” is less about one girl, be she specific or a stand-in for all women, and more about gendered group dynamics filtered through the experience of the protagonist, Marieme (Karidja Touré).  Sciamma’s work does resemble many other great films, however.

“Girlhood” recalls Tina Fey’s insightful script for “Mean Girls,” which also focuses on a troublemaking quartet of girls.  Both depict the ways in which either one person can set the tone for an entire group – or a paralysis of groupthink can conduct the unit.  Perhaps the most memorable scene in “Girlhood,” save a lip-sync rendition of “Diamonds” by Rhianna, occurs when the clique encounters a former member who was exiled when she became pregnant.  Group identity is everything for these adolescent girls, until it is nothing.

“Girlhood” recalls Catherine Hardwicke’s hard-hitting “Thirteen,” an intense drama that follows two taboo-shattering teen girls down a rabbit hole of drug abuse and promiscuity.  Admittedly, this connection is more superficial.  Sciamma shows her main characters committing some questionable acts, but they do not necessarily define them as people.

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