With no adults to add melodrama, the sweet Water Lilies depends on the emotion in its young performers' faces to move forward.
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Dismissed in some quarters as trash because it depicts a sexual act (of sorts) between two teenage girls, Water Lilies struck me instead as a hypnotic and wholly convincing look at teen culture from the inside, with all its courage, cruelty and unspoken codes of silence intact.
The elegant Water Lilies is not about answers but about discovery of self and of others in all its pain and pleasure.
The painfully spot-on essence of teen angst meets the spirit of Esther Williams in Water Lilies. First film by gifted scripter-helmer Celine Sciamma nails the aching doubts and offhanded cruelty of 15- and 16-year-old girls.
Though Water Lilies endlessly teases the audience with its sapphic subtext and young female flesh, Sciamma seems most interested in showing how extremely cruel adolescent girls can be to each other.
Though the material is familiar, Sciamma has a light touch and avoids many teen-movie cliches.
Water Lilies is a nice, watchable, attractive, minor work. What it lacks is a sense of purpose, a commitment not just to its characters but also to its own reason for being.
Everything in Water Lilies is more guarded, more complex and far more interesting than it seems.
Although a little too open-ended to be wholly satisfying, Water Lilies is still an excellent directorial debut.