Childhood gender identity struggle handled subtly and beautifully
As the title suggests, this quietly beautiful film is about a little girl who wants to look and act like a boy. But given that indicator, audiences may still be surprised when writer/director Celine Sciamma reveals that the character they’ve been introduced to as Michael is actually Laure. That’s a measure of 10 year-old Zoé Héran’s incredibly convincing performance, and it also ensures the believability of the film’s central conceit; that Laure can successfully pass for a boy with the children in her new neighbourhood.
Laure’s deception is unknown to her parents, but while this gives the film a layer of bubbling tension, as we know the truth must surely come out at some point, Sciamma is more interested in capturing a particular mood than telling a dramatic story. Through lovingly observed scenes of children playing outside together she evokes a seemingly endless childhood summer, establishing a carefree tone that contrasts with the high stakes of Laure’s personal struggle to discover her identity. The film could be described as a pre-pubescent cousin of Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides; Sciamma offers a subtle and unique dramatisation of the contradictory experiences of childhood.
GFT, Glasgow from Fri 16-Thu 22 Sep.