Film Review by Kam Williams
Troubled Teen Joins All-Girl Gang in Cautionary Coming-of-Age Tale
Oscar-nominated Boyhood is a tortoise-paced, time-lapse affair about what it’s like to grow up white and male in suburban America. At the other end of the spectrum, we now have the relatively-dizzying Girlhood, a cautionary coming-of-age tale exploring what it’s like to be black and female and trying to survive in a Parisian ghetto.
The story revolves around Marieme (Karidja Toure), a 16 year-old slacker going nowhere fast. She’s just learned that she still won’t be headed to high school, despite having already repeated the 8th grade twice.
Between failing academically and an abusive home situation, it comes as no surprise that Marieme might decide to fly the coop and seek a fresh start with the nickname Vic. What is unexpected, however, is that she isn’t inspired by a boy but by the idea of joining an all-girl, all-black gang run with an iron fist by a sassy sister named Lady (Assa Sylla).
The other members of the estrogen-fueled, sepia posse are Adiatou (Lindsay Karamoh) and Fily (Marietou Toure), a couple of equally-rudderless rebels without a clue. The four fugitives from polite society proceed to fritter away their days robbing youngsters for their lunch money, flirting with boys, cat-fighting with a rival gang, and gyrating while lip-synching female empowerment anthems like Rihanna’s “Diamond in the Sky.”
Not much of productive consequence ever happens in their neck of the ‘hood, which explains why Marieme soon tires of the unfulfilling routine. Unfortunately, given her limited skill set, the only alternative she finds is selling narcotics to wealthy white kids for Abou (Djibril Gueye), a creepy pimp/drug dealer with a hidden agenda.
As compelling as a train wreck, Girlhood is an eye-opening drama you just can’t take your eyes off of. Such a super-realistic, slice-of-life often feels more like a documentary than a drama as you watch losers with low self-esteem do, well, the sort of things losers with low self-esteem do.
The cinematic equivalent of slumming around the City of Lights’ seamy underbelly.
Very Good (3 stars)
In French with subtitles
Running time: 113 minutes
Distributor: Strand Releasing