“Girlhood”, or its original title, “Bande de filles” is a French coming-of-age film about a teenage Afro-French woman named Marieme, played by Karidja Touré.
We first see corn-rowed Marieme living in outskirts of Paris with her two sisters, full-time working mother, and highly abusive brother. Her “quartier” is run by the boys that live there, and their ideas about how the two genders should act. Marieme doesn’t have high prospects for a high school education, seeing as the school system in France will hold you back if you fail a single class.
She meets three, long-locked girls who take her to Paris, dance to J Dash’s “WOP” on the metro, and treat her as their equal. In Marieme’s first musically-accompanied “age transition”, she changes her hair, her dress, and her attitude.
With her three new friends, who help Marieme slowly escape from her brother, introduce her to a new life. The group re-names her Vic, and in a pivotal point in the movie, the four spend a night in a hotel room and lip-sync to Rihanna’s “Diamonds”.
Marieme is thrown into a socially-divided community where girls fight over hair, bras, and boys. Through the development of Marieme’s story, the audience is given an insight into the social and racial inequalities in France.
The acting in this film is impeccable. Touré is unapologetic and gives Marieme a relatable depth. Through her frightening experiences to her unspoken hopes, Marieme’s character is real.
Despite the similar names, Celiné Sciamma’s “Girlhood” is nothing like Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood”. Yes, it follows the adolescent trends of a girls life, but it is nowhere near as intricate as the 12-year experience of “Boyhood”. That being said, there’s no use in comparing them.
Sciamma’s choice of music was the sole entity that was bothersome in the film. I loved the use of American hip hop music to tell the story, but the thumping transition music was overbearing and unpleasant to listen to. Although it signaled each transition in Marianne’s life, it was too much.
Ultimately, “Girhood” is a tragically beautiful look into the adolescent trends of a young woman in France. It demands your patience, your laughs, and your tears, but it’s worth it.