Tomboy – film review.
I loved this movie. I was captivated at first sight of the poster: “Tomboy” emblazoned above the photo of a tousle-haired, freckle-faced, androgynous child. It made me tremble a little with self-recognition. I immediately watched the trailer then tweeted about it and shared the link. I “liked” it on Facebook. The movie had a lot to live up to. And, boy, did it deliver. I sat in the dark theatre and was buffeted by waves of my own fragile emotions, latent urges and long-suppressed feelings as images from the film splashed across the screen and imprinted on my heart.
At its core, Tomboy is a simple film. A girl named Laure passes as a boy named Mikael for the summer and revels in it. Yet, gender being the hot-button issue of our queer times, this simple story is also very political. The film deals with society’s preconceived notions of gender and assumptions made about a person’s likes and dislikes, how one should move, look and dress. Because of the age of the children in the film, gender is explored outside of sexuality, and although there are a few nods to it, they feel more like tentative first steps taken not out of sexual desire but out of a desire to mimic expected gender roles.
Writer and director Céline Sciamma deftly navigates the theme, allowing the audience to peer into the summer of this 10-year-old’s life and feel all the joy and terror of it. For most of the film, only the audience is privy to Laure/Mikael’s secret, so no other characters can offer their opinion on what they are doing. We therefore feel the judgment of others very keenly when all is revealed, and we are just as powerless in the face of it.
The acting is understated and pure. The children are not cutesy or precocious, and they look and act like real children. Zoé Héran, whom the casting director found through an agency, is startling good as the lead. She was the girl on the roster not getting any work because she looked too much like a boy.
Sciamma trusts her actors to almost wordlessly convey the emotions of the story. It is the same light touch she used in her previous film, Water Lilies. She allows the camera to linger on the faces of the children, letting us see their feelings in their actions and in their stillness. It is their reactions we are interested in. Are the children at all suspicious of Mikael? Would they care? How does Mikael react to the acceptance of those around him? All of this is read through the clear eyes of the young actors.
My one big criticism of the film is the “big reveal,” à là Crying Game, that comes 20 minutes into the film. Since the film’s title and all the press surrounding this movie allow the audience to be in on Laure/Mikael’s secret from the start, the inclusion of this scene with its intended surprise is a puzzling choice.
Some audience members will likely be dismayed by other choices made in the film, especially those viewers who feel this film comes close to capturing the emotions and struggles of their own lives or the lives of those they love. Overall, however, Tomboy is a touching, compelling and beautiful film. I urge everyone to see it.
Here is the official trailer:
You can find out more about director Céline Sciamma and Tomboy here.
Have you seen Tomboy? What did you think? If you haven’t seen it, will you?Tags:Céline Sciamma, Film, French film, Gender, GenderQueer, Movie, Reviews, Titus Androgynous, Tomboy