[MIFF ’11] Tomboy

Tomboy

Céline Sciamma follows up her fantastic debut feature Water Lilies, with Tomboy, another coming of age film dealing with girls. While Water Lilies dealt with High School and sexuality, Tomboy follows a different path with its main focus a 10-year-old girl. As this film starts off however we do not know that Laure (Zoé Héran) is in fact a girl, she dresses up like a boy and acts like a boy (hence the title of Tomboy). Her family including her pregnant mother (Sophie Cattani), father (Mathieu Demy) and younger sister (Malonn Lévana) have just moved into a new apartment building. Laure sees this as an opportunity to meet some new friends, while she sees the neighbourhood boys playing; she meets Lisa (Jeanne Disson). Lisa makes the assumption that Laure is a boy, and she introduces herself as Mikael. The lie is now formed, as Lisa takes Mikael to meet the boys and slowly becomes apart of their group. Laure quickly realises that keeping up this charade is not going to be easy, as she struggles to keep her new friends in the dark as well as her family.
This was such a great film, and a delight to sit through. Not only was it an interesting story, but the performances were fantastic and it definitely reminded me of what it was like to be that age again. As a 1o-year-old girl, I was much like Laure in the sense that I was a tomboy. I didn’t pretend to be one, but I wore boy’s clothes and I used to play with boys toys, and I often felt like ‘just one of the guys’. The way that Laure was portrayed in the film was realistic and natural; it didn’t seem forced at all. Sciamma has a great understanding of how kids act, and react to situations, there are not exaggerated or caricatures of what someone thinks they need to be. The interactions with Laure and younger sister Jeanne are so innocent and lovely, with Jeanne wanting to spend time with her sister and her sister perhaps feeling a bit old to spend all her time with Jeanne. It is fitting though that Jeanne needs to play secret keeper for Laure, which she agrees to after Laure agrees that she can hang out with her and the neighbourhood kids.

The performances in this film are exceptional, from the adults to the kids; they all do a remarkable job. Zoé Héran is basically on screen for most of the film, and we are with her all the way. The camera captures all sorts of moments (including some very humorous scenes about how she’ll appear more masculine in a bathing suit), they are handled with such respect yet brutal honestly. Héran certainly was brave enough to look the part, and also act the part, there is never a dull moment with her. What she brings to Laure and also her alter ego Mikael is a very natural performance, and she manages to play the two roles quite differently that at times I was almost convinced she was a boy. Malonn Lévana was just fantastic, she was funny and more importantly she felt like a kid of her age. She wasn’t spewing with intelligence beyond her years, she acted her age and it was delightful. Jeanne Disson also put on a brave performance, especially with her characters budding feelings towards Mikael. Héran and Disson worked so well together, that their friendship and time spent together felt  real and naturally progressed. We didn’t see much from the parents but Mathieu Demy and Sophie Cattani did a very solid job, and they all just made me feel like they were an actual family.
Céline Sciamma has written and directed such a wonderful film, she understands the stories she wants to tell and has a great understanding of what it is like to be in these situations. She doesn’t sugar coat anything , and lays out the reality of these lives. Being young is confusing, the need to fit in is great, these come across perfectly in Tomboy. The script is very funny, and insightful, perhaps one of the best for this year. She got top notch performances from these actors, they were some of the most natural and spot on ones I have seen recently. The film was shot with a very small crew, the locations are limited, it definitely has an intimate feel to it. I was engaged through-out this film, and the only flaw I found was that it ended. I would have sat and watched these characters for hours, when a film can make you feel that you know it has done something right. If you get the chance to see this film, you must take it. It quite simply stands as one of the best films I have seen about kids of this age, and makes for a compelling coming of age story.
Rating:

One thought on “[MIFF ’11] Tomboy

  1. Pingback: REVIEW: Tomboy (2011) | Squarise

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