Published Dec 01, 2011Four years ago, French director Celine Sciamma's debut feature, Water Lilies, gripped audiences with its controversial theme of budding lesbianism in teenage girls. Less contentious, but with equally intricate subject matter, Sciamma's second feature, Tomboy, deals with a young girl struggling with her sexual identity without the exploitative veneer typically shown in other "coming of age" films.
In Tomboy, ten-year-old Laure (played magnificently by Zoe Heran) moves with her family to a small suburb in the middle of summer. During her first day outside, Laure befriends Lisa (Jeanne Disson), who immediately assumes Laure is a boy due to her boyish looks and haircut. Instead of revealing to Lisa she is in fact a girl, Laure tells her that her name is Mikael and for the next few weeks, Laure assumes the male persona amongst her peers. Things quickly take a complicated turn when Lisa begins to develop her first crush on Laure. Needless to say, Laure's omission of the truth is eventually met with humiliating consequences.
Sciamma's sophomore directorial effort thoroughly examines the apparent correlation between lesbianism and tomboys in an effective and tasteful manner, as viewers witness Laure's internal and emotional struggle of keeping her secret and the reasoning behind it. Laure goes to great lengths to keep up appearances: she studies her male friends' mannerisms, plays basketball shirtless, stuffs Play-Doh in her bathing suit and even gets her impressionable younger sister to play along with the lie. However, is Laure merely trying to fit into a crowd or is she trying to win over the affections of Lisa?
Sciamma invites the viewer to come up with their conclusions based upon their perceptions in this well-rounded and dutiful tale of adolescence that will unfortunately be revered as a PG version of Boys Don't Cry to viewers and critics everywhere. (Mongrel Media)