From the opening shot, it is clear Girlhood is about power. That the first impression we get of the girls from this neighbourhood, as they play American football on a pitch lit with Fluorescent flood lights, while loud aggressive synths play over their game, they aren’t sexualised or trivialised, as so much real life and on screen women’s sports coverage is. The girls head home in a large group, clearly weaker as they split off to go home, clearly intimidated by a male presence in their walk through the night. Girlhood is a story for women.
Girlhood, is a coming of age story, it’s a thoughtful portrayal of the life of Mariame, a girl living in the urban outskirts of Paris. Marieme feels disillusioned from the options her life has presented her, and is able to take refuge through a strong friendship with a group of girls who seem intimidating at first, but who we quickly realise are all just figuring it out – trying to define themselves and gain control by trying on all the identities and roles accessible to them.
True to form, Girlhood navigates family, sexuality, school, shoplifting, and friendship – the building blocks of any good teen film. At times the film can seem jarring, but quickly resolves with laughs or a beautiful wash of blue lighting (you’ve probably seen this bit by now). It’s much more complex than being the ‘feminist Boyhood’ or whatever it’s being branded as. This stands out in a genre dominated by the narratives of white American boys and girls. It explores the world of black European girls which is rarely portrayed on film.
Despite this, Girlhood isn’t about race, which is so refreshing. The only recent films I can think of, that had young black women as the protagonists, are Dear White People (2014) and Belle (2013), rely on the girls race as part of the story. Girlhoods leading ladies race isn’t their ‘thing’, and it’s amazing to see WOC experience being teenagers in an ordinary way that we usually only see white teens. It’s normalizing and it’s necessary.
Gripping to the point I was shocked when it was over (thinking it was so fantastic it couldn’t possibly end,) assured in direction, beautifully lit, strong when it was silent, and with impressive first time performances, I don’t hesitate in calling this my favourite film of the year. I’m trying hard not to inanely reduce this film to ‘Sofia Coppola meets Kidulthood’, but Girlhood just unfolds in a somehow realistic and dreamlike way, a somehow specific and universal depiction of teenage girlhood.
By Reba Martin
Reba Martin is a teenager from Bristol. She’s been obsessed with the Simpsons since before she could walk, and still watches it religiously to this day. Her hobbies include planning to go to the cinema, and going to the cinema. She cries uncontrollably with joy at animated children’s movies, so she doesn’t feel her judgement is clear enough to choose a favourite film (but if she had to it would be Women On The Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.) You look at her movie diaryhere and her Tumblr at changingghost.