Movies, Drama
4 out of 5 stars

Blame the marketing department for that title, which puts you in mind of Richard Linklater's Boyhood but diminishes the specialness of this French coming-of-age-drama, more attuned to race, solidarity and the dead ends that noncollege-bound kids have to be smart enough to avoid. Lonely Marieme (Karidja Touré, a remarkable find) is a 16-year-old living in the Paris projects. Just as an impatient guidance counselor begins steering her toward vocational classes, Marieme is all but recruited by a brassy girl gang of young black dropouts, a trio of women whose straightened hairdos, leather-and-denim dress code and mouthy attitudes prove intoxicating.

Now on her third feature, director Céline Sciamma (Tomboy) is too sophisticated to create a cautionary tale about falling in with the wrong crowd. Provocatively, Girlhood emphasizes Marieme's empowerment via her new friends, even as she lunges into catfights, lures boys who never noticed her before and drifts from traditional values. If the early gang scenes seem a touch West Side Story, the film scores in a beautiful moment of sisterly abandonment, the blissed-out girls dancing together to Rihanna's "Diamonds," grabbing some fantasy escape in stolen dresses and a blue-lit hotel room.

The movie jumps forward after interludes of euphorically pounding techno music (by Para One) and you cringe with some of the developments. Tellingly, the rechristened "Vic" finds herself shortchanged not by women but by controlling men. But Girlhood ends on an impressively unresolved note—of separation and firmed-jawed determination. How can you not hope for a sequel called Womanhood?

Follow Joshua Rothkopf on Twitter: @joshrothkopf

By: Joshua Rothkopf


Release details

Rated: N/R
Release date: Friday January 30 2015
Duration: 112 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Céline Sciamma
Screenwriter: Céline Sciamma
Cast: Karidja Touré
Assa Sylla
Lindsay Karamoh
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