I went to watch this movie at The Lost Plot. It is quite a beautiful setting to watch a movie on the rooftop of a beautiful hotel and order delicious munchies and cold beers :) I will save the review about the experience itself in a separate post. I hoped to spend a beautiful evening with myself in the company of an offbeat movie. Girlhood, it turned out, is all that and more.
Girlhood is the story about a 15-16 year old girl from Paris's suburbs, who lives with her multiple siblings including an abusive brother and a mother. The mother, though present is absolutely non existent in the context of her upbringing. Now this is almost unlike India where parents play a part in their children's lives, sometimes even into their adulthood. How that works for anyone is a personal story but I was certainly thankful about it after watching the movie. We might not agree with most choices this girl makes. She drops out of vocational training to join a group of rebellious girls because she thinks it is cool and mostly because she's looking for the freedom those happy girls seem to have. But pretty soon she realizes that they are still where they were and the path definitely doesn't lead to freedom of any kind.
But what this journey through her eyes shows us is girls are the same everywhere. We all have crushes, we love spending time with our girlfriends and above all, we are all looking to fit in, belong, somewhere. She grows stronger through every experience, changes herself to fit in, twice, hoping she will belong and that it's the path to her flight. If you're hoping this is a comfortable story with neat incidents and a happy conclusive ending, you're mistaken. Sciamma makes no attempt at tying in her loose ends and has no interest in giving us happy butterflies in our stomach. She gives us the reality, however uncomfortable and gives us the courage and strength in Marieme's eyes to just make us float through. Though still feeling confident that the girl will find her answers not soon, but eventually, like most of us.
The most poignant scenes of the film are the ones where Marieme changes. I mean she literally changes, her styling, clothes, her hair. It gives us a window into the experience that comes next. The styling itself is brilliant and as one of the hostesses at the screening pointed out, is used as a tool to take us through this girl's journey. The scene where we find out that Marieme is trying to hide her breasts under bandages and has her hair short to appear like a boy is heartbreaking. It throws the reality in our face, how all the more difficult it is for a teenage girl to survive the evils of a neighborhood. When she is assaulted by her boss and has no other choice but to leave, she goes straight to her boyfriend her confidante who offers lovingly to marry her so that they can live together and she would no longer be a "slut" and hence be accepted back in her family and neighborhood. Her struggle is real, but when she declines his offer of a safe marriage and kids we realize how much Marieme has discovered herself and how confident she is of what she wants. She doesn't want that life she says and all I can whisper is "You go girl!"
Watch this movie with your band of girls or alone, because this film is a must-watch for the brilliance of the story, direction and the lead actress. And did I mention it's almost entirely an African-French cast and most of them women? Yes! That perspective makes it all the more unique.