dir. Céline Sciamma
Starring: Karidja Touré
Girlhood opens in a moment of camaraderie. A girl’s football team—not soccer, but rough-and-tumble North American football—is practicing late into the evening. As practice ends, the girls leave together laughing and talking loudly as they walk home through their Parisian neighborhood. The smiles are wide and the conversation is raucous.
And then they walk past a group of boys and everyone is hushed.
The girls seem to shift instinctually from carefree friendship to careful solidarity.
After this girls begin to break off in pairs heading toward their various homes until we are alone with Marieme, beautifully portrayed by actress, Karidja Touré.
Marieme is a girl. She has a family. She goes to school. She hangs out with friends. She develops crushes. She grows older and makes decisions about the kind of life she wants. She has moments of happiness, moments of fear, and moments of calm. She is like many of us, and yet she is herself. She is not every girl. She is just a girl.
And that is what Girlhood is about. It is specific in its story and universal in its familiarity. As writer/director Céline Sciamma notes, “It’s like I’m not looking at it like I’m documenting this strange, exotic world that we should try to understand. I think that what happens in the periphery of what we see in Paris is what’s happening in all societies. Basically, I’m trying to tell the story of a girl.”
Céline Sciamma, who has explored coming-of-age stories in her previous films, Tomboy and Water Lillies, presents the highs and lows of female friendship in Girlhood. From the opening sequence, we follow Marieme as she navigates the transition from childhood into adulthood. She struggles with school and her family and finds moments of contentment with a new group of friends. These friends flirt and fight, but like the lyrics they sing from Rihanna, they “choose to be happy/You and I, you and I/We’re like diamonds in the sky.”
Sadly, the ecstasy of the singing with friends comes to an eventual end.
For the film and for Marieme, it’s not so much a happy ending or a tragic ending—it’s a hard ending. She has the opportunity to fulfill standard movie tropes—she can choose to “get the guy” and she can choose to “go home again”—but she chooses, instead, to walk away. It’s a quiet moment. And, it doesn’t leave the viewer hopeful for Marieme. But it seems real in the sense that so many of life’s moments are quiet decisions that could lead to greatness, could lead to troubles, but inevitably lead to more life. We don’t know what happens to Marieme, and neither does she. Director Céline Sciamma has chosen to give the viewer a glimpse of Marieme’s experience, the months where she transitions from child to adult. It is up to Marieme and the viewer to imagine where her life goes from there.
SARAH MITCHELL loves movies, cartoons, comic books, Cheez-its, and traveling with her husband to obscure National Parks. She is easily distracted by stacks of books and can usually be found attached to her computer, desperately trying to finish her dissertation. @SED_Mitchell
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