Life might not always be easy for teen girls in arthouse films, but it can get a bit samey: shyly discovering their sexuality when no one in the world understands them. But with her mysterious, gripping debut, Swedish director Lisa Aschan deliciously subverts the coming-of-age formula.
When we meet 14-year-old Emma (Mathilda Paradeiser), she looks every inch the sensitive heroine, living with her dad and seven-year-old sister Sara (Isabella Lindquist). When Emma joins an equestrian gym team (lots of handstands on horses) she meets Cassandra (Linda Molin), whose predatory, spiteful grin spells trouble for Emma. Or does it? Because Emma is beginning to look not so much shy as icily controlled.
A claustrophobic friendship develops. At an age when most girls are swapping horses for boys, their heart-in-mouth daredevil tricks are a metaphor for this dangerous dynamic. A lovely counterpoint is Emma’s sister – a gorgeous pudding-bowl-haired thing with growing pains of her own: she’s in love with her cousin, poor mite.