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Girlhood goes beyond simply being a coming of age film featuring Black girls and tries to explore what it means to be coming of age past losing your virginity, falling in love, and dealing with heartbreak.
Review (with Spoilers) – Below
Characters & Story
We are introduced to a 16-year-old Marieme (Karidja Touré) who begins as a very innocent, very shy person. However, upon Lady (Assa Sylla) recruiting her to be the fourth member of her group, things drastically change. She stops going to school, hangs out with Lady, Adiatou (Lindsay Karamog) and Fily (Mariétou Touré) all the time, and decides to sleep with this guy Ismaël (Idrissa Diabaté). And while her brother Djibril (Cyril Mendy) is the man of the house, and a bit abusive, and her mother Asma (Binta Diop) tries to set her up with work and some sort of income, she foregoes all that. Leading you to wonder how may the film end for Marieme.
When it comes to coming of age films, as I may have said before, finding one starring a black girl is very difficult. Hell, finding a coming of age film in which the female character isn’t much more than a love interest is hard. So watching Marieme is almost like a fresh experience. Especially since the trajectory of the film isn’t what you are used to. For while love and sex is part of Marieme’s focus, it isn’t central. Her focus more so is finding a way to survive, and spending time with her group of friends. Making men not the central point of her story.
Leading to the topic of the actual girlhood and friendship focus of the film. Something which is beautifully done through the girls singing “Diamonds” by Rihanna, Marieme getting revenge on a girl who beat up Lady, the girls having sleepovers at a hotel, and you just being given the general sense that coming of age isn’t all about sex and your first love. If anything, it is about learning how to survive on your own, finding people who make the responsibilities of life seem less daunting, and learning when enough is enough.
My main issue with this film is the would be 2nd act. If only because this film seemingly has multiple paths Marieme could have taken after becoming a sort of bad girl, and rather than pick one and develop it thoroughly, instead it feels like the ideas writer/ director Céline Sciamma came up with were all used and made as coherent as possible. And this isn’t to say the trajectory of the film doesn’t work, but being that it is nearly 2 hours, and multiple times has moments which make you think the credits are going to roll, it can become frustrating. Especially since you know another coming of age film like this isn’t likely to happen until, probably, next year. Unless something is already packaged for the summer or fall.
Overall: TV Viewing
Being that this is in very limited release, likely you may have to travel to see this film, and honestly it isn’t good enough to catch a train, bus, or drive miles away from home, to see. And, to be honest, I was sort of kicking myself for not seeing it during opening weekend, and now I feel like I should have waited until it became VoD. For while I didn’t leave the film disappointed, I do feel that even with the changes to the coming of age formula Girlhood did, I didn’t leave excited, prepped to be angry that this won’t get due recognition or anything like that. For, to a certain degree, if we actually had more diverse depictions of coming of age in films, this would be a completely average film which wouldn’t strongly deserve to be on anyone’s radar. It would be like any random indie movie which comes out during the winter or summer. Here today, gone tomorrow, and only film buffs would know it existed.
Things To Note
I certainly can’t be considered an authority on who has star potential or not, but I honestly don’t feel anyone here really hits a homerun out of the park. Maybe with time, yeah, but based off of Girlhood, it is definitely more about seeing Black female faces in these type of roles vs. the performance of this actress or this actor.