By: Addison Wylie
Due to its time of release, Girlhood is unfairly titled; causing many to draw immediate comparisons to Richard Linklater’s Boyhood. Girlhood is also a movie that is unfairly robbed of its natural moments by its filmmaker as they become more out of touch with their material. This is Catherine Hardwicke’s Thirteen re-imagined by a student who is still learning how to grasp their own sense of subtlety and composure.
Thirteen is a better movie and more agile with its topic of teen development and peer pressure. The reason why Thirteen works as well as it does is because the pieces stabilizing Hardwicke’s film (the eavesdropping cinematography, the realistic performances, and the unflinching screenplay) suggest that the viewer is breaching the privacy on screen. The film avoids being leery and exploitive, and instead fuels the power of the filmmaking.
Writer/director Céline Sciamma is very proud of Girlhood, and she wants to show it off. It’s fine for a filmmaker to hold their film in high regard, but it becomes a problem when the attitude influences the emotional impact.
Sciamma nails the raw societal stages of these awkward teen years as well as the naive desire to belong. There are unsettling scenes that stress the competitive intimidation amongst young females that make for a fierce watch. But, the stilted and obvious staging of these personal crossroads don’t contain the same sort of truth. Compositions are all too set-up to squeeze the right reactions from the audience.
There’s an inspired sequence featuring the film’s leading pack singing and dancing to Rihanna’s “Diamonds”, and it’s a defining moment for a certain outcast of the group. It’s one of the many scenes that shows the writer/director is much more interested in how it looks rather than dissecting the life empowering it.
Catch Girlhood at Toronto’s TIFF Bell Lightbox on Saturday, February 14 at 6:00 pm as part of the TIFF Next Wave Film Festival. Girlhood hits select theatres on Friday, February 27.