“[Director Céline] Sciamma is clearly trying to develop a valid message at the center of her film, which goes deeper than a message of socioeconomics, and to be fair, she does reach it at points, but the problem is that it feels more like a wide-ranged barrage of ideas and scenes than a valid and smoothly moving project.”
by Ken B.
Paris has the international reputation of being a cultured, high-class city, glimmering and sparkling in the night sky, radiating throughout the world. But, just as any other metropolis, there are parts greatly disadvantaged, and often this is where you can find material ripe for powerful drama. Céline Sciamma has dipped into this well for her new film, Girlhood, which features the unfortunate life of a sixteen year old black girl named Marieme (Karidja Touré). She lives in the projects, tries her best to keep her abusive older brother at bay, and has little sisters to look after while her mother is away, and has a long streak of academic struggle in school. She feels like her life is going nowhere, and everything is going against her.
But sometimes a new path is found in the strangest ways. Marieme reluctantly joins a group of other girls, and leaves school. She’s part of a new family now, in a way. It’s hardly a gang, but there’s bad blood with other people and groups, and there’s the constant worry of it boiling over into violence sooner or later. She starts using a new name – “Vic”, short for “victory”. As she is told, Marieme, or Vic, can do whatever she wants now. She is finally free. Or so it seems. Soon, the bright days of release lead to dark despair, as the idyllic escape, free of responsibilities, becomes a haunting portrait of a bleak future that will only get worse unless something is done.
Over the course of an admittedly slogging and strung-out 113 minutes, Girlhood still manages to drive to an interesting concept, establishing a coming of age story where its main character doesn’t have the advantage of being white, male, or at least middle-class. Sciamma’s careful emotional evolution given to Marieme, brought wonderfully to life by Touré, cannot reach brilliance, as it trips over the film’s tendency to deflate over time, with a more loose second half befalling the achievements of an intriguing setup. A supporting cast, which much like Touré, was scouted from the streets, adds to the vibrancy established by their costar, even if it is a vibrancy not matched by sluggish editing. Sciamma is clearly trying to develop a valid message at the center of her film, which goes deeper than a message of socioeconomics, and to be fair, she does reach it at points, but the problem is that it feels more like a wide-ranged barrage of ideas and scenes than a valid and smoothly moving project.