Laure (Hran) is ten years old, thin as a twig---possibly thinner---and tentative about moving to a new place with her family. Sporting sharp cheekbones and a close-cropped haircut, she's also possessed of such an androgynous look that this young woman could easily be mistaken for a prepubescent boy. It isn't shocking that another kid assumes she's a he. What's surprising is how easily our hero(ine) rolls with the gaffe: Introducing herself as "Mikael," the new kid on the block is instantly accepted as one of the guys, horsing around at the local swimming hole (thank goodness for impromptu prosthetic phalluses made of Play-Doh) and enjoying the attentions of a pretty neighbor (Disson). So long as no one finds out the truth...
Anyone who's seen Cline Sciamma's feature debut, Water Lilies (2007), a clumsy story of teen girls and sapphic experimentation, will be as awed at the filmmaker's makeover as they are by the protagonist's. The French director seems to have discovered the value of a lighter hand over a ham-fisted one, crafting a movie that's as delicate as her actor's features and tapping into a tender playfulness among children that hasn't been seen since Truffaut's Small Change. Even more impressive is Hran, who plays the empowered youth with the perfect amount of guile and guilt over deceiving her crush. Tomboy may add little to conversations about gender or sexuality. It has everything to say, however, about that period of childhood when identity is at its most malleable.
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