With Girlhood, Céline Sciamma is releasing a third film that’s concerned with, well, girlhood. Her previous features, Water Lilies and Tomboy, both go some way to tackling the lack of cinema invested in the experience of growing up as a girl. Her third, thankfully, is no different.
Set in the projects of a Parisian suburb, the narrative begins with Marieme (Karidja Touré) and her friends talking to one another in a flurry of indistinct chatter; the film’s French title Band le Filles, or “gang of girls”, is possibly more fitting. As the girls walk past a group of lads sitting around a stairway, their chatter ceases, and with that we’re initiated into their mindsets.
The real success of Girlhood is that its themes stick with you long after watching, and so too does Touré’s performance. Starring in every scene, Marieme is a character coming to terms with her gender. While she enjoys the sense of camaraderie she has with her friends, she ultimately understands femininity to be a signifier of weakness – not a trait that sits well with Marieme’s strong and independent personality. As the film continues, it becomes a truly thought-provoking exploration of female power, contained in this patriarchal structure of Parisian tower blocks.
Set to a pulsing synth soundtrack with brief soirées into chart pop, Sciamma’s script and direction really allow you to inhabit the world that these girls belong to. As such, when Marieme is courted by a group of tougher and possibly older schoolgirls, Sciamma doesn’t allow you to easily judge them. This isn’t a case of “bad” corrupting “good”; rather, you get a real sense of understanding as to why the girls adopt this aggressive behaviour. To dance, fight, sing and gossip is to seek a means of escape from a life of subservience that beckons them from the periphery.
Newcomer Touré has a lot to do with the brilliance of Marieme. She is enigmatic, confident and beaming with energy. With the likes of Hunger Games and Divergent dominating Hollywood, it’s refreshing to see such a strong, independent female character existing in the real world reaching our cinemas. Here’s hoping we get a fourth film soon from this interesting and focused director.
Girlhood is released nationwide on 8th May 2015.
Watch the trailer for Girlhood here: