GIRLHOOD — Prepare to be empowered by Marieme’s story as we witness a teenager’s thirst for survival in her journey to becoming a young woman.
Directed by Céline Sciamma (WATER LILLIES, TOMBOY), GIRLHOOD is a coming-of-age film that focuses on Marieme (Karidja Toure), a shy African-French teenager who lives in a neighborhood outside of Paris.
Stuck at home with an abusive brother and two younger sisters left in her care, life hasn’t always been easy for Marieme. Forced to do vocational classes due to her poor school grades, Marieme is silently disgusted with herself, and was desperate for any kind of change in her life.
One day, she is approached by a gang of frolicsome teens: Lady (Assa Sylla) who is the leader of the group, and her followers, Fily (Marietou Tore), and Adiatou (Lindsay Karamoh). Donned with leather jackets, gold bling and pin straight hair, the girls invite Marieme to join them for a day trip to the city. Despite declining the girls at first, Marieme soon changes her mind when the girls get approached by a group of boys, including her brother’s friend, Ismael (Idrissa Diabate), whom she has a crush on.
This was the beginning of a new era for Marieme. Her split decision to join the girls isn’t just about acceptance. In fact, it was Marieme’s first rebellious move towards independence — a move that will enable her to challenge herself, and escaping from the norm that can sometimes feel claustrophobic.
In order to tackle life’s challenges down the track, Marieme will need to be fierce, intelligent and street-smart to fulfill her thirst for independence.
Growing close to Lady, Adiatou and Fily, she begins to dress and act recklessly like them. Not only does she learn to how to dress like a girl, but she can now also fight and steal to forcibly get what she wants. Till this day, Marieme has never felt so alive in her entire life.
Depicted from Marieme’s perspective, Girlhood is a minimalist work of art that offers a rare insight beyond a teenager’s closed doors. It is universally acknowledged that being an adolescent is one of the toughest stages in one’s life. Whether it is battling peer pressure or struggling to be accepted in society, the road to finding one’s voice, identity and independence is difficult. In such difficult times where one is struggling to overcome these obstacles, there is no-one else to confide in but your friends, and Girlhood perfectly highlights the importance of bonds throughout the story.
From the lively rebellious days to the lonely times as a teen, who else better than Sciamma to direct a film like Girlhood? A mastermind at portraying this raw portrait of an adolescent’s world, the audience vicariously sees everything through Marieme’s eyes with sympathy.
From the beginning to the conclusion of Girlhood, we are constantly mesmerised by Toure’s performance of Marieme. With the varied use of limited dialogue, tracking shots and closeup shots on Toure, Marieme’s world often appears eerily moody and silent, enabling viewers to grow close to her character in an intimate manner.
In addition to its likeable storytelling that will strike a chord with most viewers, Girlhood should be commended for its gutsy move to challenge Hollywood film standards.
Going against the grain, Sciamma has chosen to cast non-mainstream AND dark-coloured actors/actresses to play her characters. Since we are generally subjected to Hollywood films featuring all-white cast members, this decision by Sciamma is refreshingly bold and different on her part. And personally, it works well. Having an all-black cast not only makes Marieme’s story authentic, but it also projects the film and its messages out into the open.
Overall: From one’s first kiss to the moment of letting everything go, GIRLHOOD is a powerful film that will cast a profound impact on your view of the world afterwards.
Complete with a compelling cast and storytelling, this coming-of-age story demonstrates an authentic representation of young girls struggling through adolescence whilst reminding viewers about the power of bonds and girl-power.