Raw and insistent, bold and brawling, Girlhood throbs with the global now, illustrating the ways an indifferent society boxes in the people who grow up in project-style boxes.
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Where many filmmakers would have underlined the bleaker, harsher aspects, Girlhood presents the characters' grim reality without surrendering its lightness of touch, its compassion or its hope.
The tense, involving result confirms Sciamma's mastery over the coming-of-age drama, a genre too often reduced to its simplest ingredients.
Girlhood is so keyed to the minutiae of its teenage protagonists' lives, it's as if the film can't stop itself from behaving like they do.
"Boyhood" has the natural endpoint of its lead growing into a young adult, while Girlhood stretches out in front of Marieme, an uncertain path into a haze.
Girlhood is a fascinatingly layered, textured film that manages to be both a lament for sweetness lost and a celebration of wisdom and identity gained, often at the very same moment.
Both Water Lilies and Tomboy explored similar material—fluctuating sexual/gender identity and adolescent heartbreak—but Sciamma’s touch is lighter and more nuanced in Girlhood, which refuses to pin any of its characters down, even in their vacillations.
Girlhood's non-patronising and credible representation of class, race and gender is a rare and perceptive illustration of the intricacies of social inequality.
As in “Water Lilies” and “Tomboy” before this, Sciamma pushes past superficial anthropological study to deliver a vital, nonjudgmental character study.
Girlhood veers between being a celebration of sisterhood (albeit an occasionally violent sort) and a chronicle of the cycle of poverty.