'Girlhood': A Fresh, Astute Depiction of Solidarity and Burgeoning Self-Awareness from France
Girlhood (Bande de Filles) (2014) is a strikingly fresh and involving drama from France starring Karidja Touré as Marieme, a demure 16-year-old living in an impoverished suburb of Paris. With a home life beset by an oft-absent mother and abusive older brother named Djibril (Cyril Mendy), Marieme joins a local all-female gang—a decision that sets her on a course of self-discovery and fateful consequence.
Welcomed by gang leader Lady (Assa Sylla) and her confederates Fily (Marietou Toure) and Adiatou (Lindsay Karamoh), Marieme enjoys newfound camaraderie and security, even as the group partakes in wanton acts of larceny, intimidation and violence. Long harboring a deep-seated crush on her brother's friend Ismaël (Idrissa Diabaté), Marieme is forced to weigh her desires against the fierce recrimination she faces from Djibril—her newfound self-assurance impelling her toward the charming young man. Ultimately her story becomes one of hard-fought maturation, as she is forced into uncharted territories, compelled to face-down the many harsh realities of burgeoning adulthood.
Written and directed by French filmmaker Céline Sciamma (Tomboy, Portrait of a Lady on Fire), Girlhood is a piercing human drama replete with candor and bold dramatic turns. Sciamma side-steps the familiar trappings of many urban narratives to deliver a contemporary depiction of female empowerment—made all-the-more affecting by Touré's entirely genuine performance in the lead role. Both grounded in authenticity and adorned with dazzling stylistic touches (tip of the hat to cinematographer Crystel Fournier and composer Para One), it's a wonderfully unique coming-of-age story within the prism of socially aware storytelling.
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