Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. France, 2011. Hold Up Films, Arte France Cinema, Lilies Films, Canal+, ARTE, La Région Île-de-France, Centre National du Cinema et de L’Image Animee, Arte / Cofinova 6, Playtime. Screenplay by Céline Sciamma. Cinematography by Crystel Fournier. Produced by Bénédicte Couvreur. Music by Jean-Baptiste de Laubier, Jerôme Echenoz. Production Design by Thomas Grézaud. Film Editing by Julien Lacheray.
A young family of two parents, two children and one on the way move to a new apartment complex where young Laure knows nobody and has the opportunity make new friends. Sporting a stylish short haircut and a wardrobe of mostly tanks and shorts, Laure introduces herself to the other kids as Mikael, joining the other boys in their playground soccer games and befriending Lisa, with whom she sparks up a sweet, pre-adolescent romance. The identity that Laure has presented is one she seems comfortable with, but when her parents find out that she’s been lying to everybody, the consequences are not cruelly punitive but they are severe; of course, the question for the audience is if, from the child’s point of view, Laure/Mikael is really telling a lie. Celina Sciamma’s ability to focus so closely on a character’s inner life results in her second powerful and affecting coming of age story in a row, emphasizing a loving home environment from which springs the character’s fraught but not hopeless journey; Laure’s bewildered parents are not treated like intolerant villains, they’re desperate to get it right with their children, but the view from adulthood can never be reconciled with that of a child and Sciamma’s intelligent direction tells us that there’s not enough love in the world to avoid the pain of growing up. The marvel of the film is Zoé Héran‘s performance as the young protagonist, soulful and nuanced, and the easy chemistry she has with Malonn Lévana as her little sister, both of whom never feel like their cuteness has been constructed to manipulate an audience’s reactions.