Summer in a new suburb outside Paris. Nothing to do but look at the ceiling. Marie, Anne and Floriane are 15. Their paths cross in the corridors at the local swimming pool, where love and desire make a sudden, dramatic appearance.
Johanna limits her visits to the apartment where her mother and her sister Laura live. Since the divorce of her parents, the family relationship clearly degraded. After a tense weekend, ... See full summary »
A girl with few real prospects joins a gang, reinventing herself and gaining a sense of self confidence in the process. However, she soon finds that this new life does not necessarily make her any happier.
Ludovic is a transgender girl who is coming out. She talks of marrying her neighbor's son and can not understand why everyone is so surprised about it. Her family and neighbors struggle ... See full summary »
Georges Du Fresne,
A family moves into a new neighborhood, and a 10-year-old named Laure deliberately presents as a boy named Mikhael to the neighborhood children. It is heavily implied that Mikhael is a closeted transgender boy. This film follows his experiences with his newfound friends, his potential love interest, Lisa, his younger sister and his parents. It focuses in on the significance of gender identity in social interaction from an early age, the difficulties of being transgender and young, and how Mikhael navigates these in the background of childhood play and love. Written by
Zoe Hearn had to cut her hair short to get the part. See more »
After the fight over the attack on Jeanne - which Laure wins, we see Laure attentively dressing the graze on Jeanne's knee, and adding a blue-coloured sticking plaster (Band-Aid).
In the next scene, when (the un-named) mother finds out that Laure has been passing herself off as a boy, she demands that Laure wear a dress, when they both go to the neighbour to apologise.
Laure is sitting on the bed with Jeanne, but all traces of Jeanne's knee injury, and even the sticking plaster, have disappeared. See more »
Tomboy is a feel-good movie of a type we're unaccustomed to seeing: it doesn't end with killings or sex or a pile of money. It's a movie about children where the children aren't effigies of the adult audience, with knowing wrinkles and smart-aleck sneers carved on ten-year-old faces. It is the opposite. It's a movie that can help the hardened and scratched-up adult carapace melt away for 80-odd minutes. Through layers of paperwork and grime, we watch and we imagine remembering what it was like to feel protected and loved by two tall and wonderful beings. What it was like to come home to dinner. What it was like not knowing who you were.
The Tomboy is Laure, a 10-year-old girl whose family just moved to a leafy suburb. She has a summer to spend before school starts, and for reasons unclear even to herself, decides to fake it as a boy. Zoé Héran, the actress, is a remarkable performer and will be a remarkable French beauty in another decade, but in the film appears as a wiry, scrawny child who wears feminine clothes only on pain of motherly torture. She runs in the forest, scraps around with boys, and can get away with being on the "shirtless" team in the soccer game.
Here's something amazing about Héran's performance: I kept having to remind myself that she speaks. In fact, she probably has more lines than anyone else in the movie, but they seem ephemeral compared to the great work that silently goes on in her mind. The camera watches her think with such intensity and expression, and since this is not a dumb movie, we don't get a voice-over that explains the obvious. We know what she's thinking: how will I continue the deception on the field and in the lake? How will I prevent my family from finding out? And, in quieter moments, other thoughts, other sensations, attempts to understand things that she can feel but hasn't yet learned the words for.
Her self-discovery is framed by a supporting cast that includes tender and attentive parents, a cute little ball of energy for a younger sister, a neighborhood girl who's attracted to the mysterious stranger, and a colorful group of rambunctious but good-natured boys.
Tomboy was made for peanuts, and there's no telling what it would have looked like with a few million dollars to spend, but the feel and sound of it are perfect. In the day, the hiss and rustle of trees; at night, the taps and groans of the house in the wind. I watched it in a dark, dusty room on a New England January, and I could almost feel the sunlight on my own skin.
In the end, despite Laure's anxieties, this is a movie that shines with joy. A wide-open world of familial love, summer play, first romance, none of which is packaged to be bought or sold. None of that first-world paranoia, no fences and kidnappers and card readers and metal detectors. It's a picture of the days when half an hour of homework was a jail term, three months of summer were a lifetime, and childhood itself was a sky-blue eternity of invented games, skin-deep catastrophes and ineffable comfort at the steady hands of the people who wish us best.
P.S. Then again, we adults have our own joys, such as the dismal, acrid laughter at the stupidity of others. This movie didn't go unnoticed on the arch-conservative website The Free Republic, which claims that the main character is a lesbian (the word doesn't actually appear once in the script, and the director is on record saying she specifically wanted to avoid pigeonholing her protagonist). Of all the extraordinarily strong opinions expressed in the forum thread, not one appears to be informed by an actual viewing.
The discussion starts out by claiming that the movie "exploits small children to advance progressives' bizarre sexual agenda;" it takes a detour through gender reassignment surgery, underage sex and ends in a starkly pornographic debate about bestiality.
It's a trope that guardians of morality often have infinitely filthier and more disturbing minds under their helmets than the people whose work gives them shrieking fits. The debauched French have made a serene and charming movie about family and friends, whereas our self-anointed protectors of children's minds and bodies used it as a springboard into bottomless perversity. The moral: if you have a choice between reading a dour political site and watching a French children's movie, go with the movie.
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