Tomboy (U)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner16/09/2011

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 81 mins

Beautifully directed and superbly written, this is an emotionally engaging coming-of-age drama with a terrific central performance from young Zoé Héran.

What's it all about?
Directed by Celine Sciamma (who made Water Lillies), Tomboy stars Zoé Héran as tomboy-ish 10-year-old Laure, who moves to a new neighbourhood with her father (Mathieu Demy), her heavily pregnant mother (Sophie Cattani) and her younger sister Jeanne (Malonn Lévana). When she ventures outside for the first time, she meets a group of neighbourhood kids (including Jeanne Disson as Lisa, the only other girl) and impulsively gives her name as Mikael, allowing her new friends to think she's a boy.

The Good
Zoé Héran is terrific as Laure, delivering an astonishingly assured performance that is fascinating to watch. She's utterly convincing as “Mikael” without having to exaggerate her everyday behaviour or mannerisms and we root for her to succeed, even as we dread the moment her deception is uncovered. There's also terrific support from both Jeanne Disson as Lisa (who clearly enjoys her position as the only girl in the group and develops a crush on Mikael) and from young Malonn Lévana, who's utterly adorable as Jeanne and whose relationship with Laure is both touching and funny, especially when she discovers what her sister has been up to.

The sharply observed script is excellent, allowing several scenes to unfold without dialogue, such as a lovely episode where Laure tries out a Plasticine bulge she's made so that she can join in with water fights and swimming games or a superb sequence involving the aftermath of a fight she wins against one of the boys in the group. It's also cleverly understated, particularly in terms of the moments when Laure realises that her new identity won't last forever.

The Great
Sciamma expertly delivers on the promise she showed with her debut feature, Water Lillies (which also explored burgeoning sexuality) and she uses several subtly effective identifying techniques, such as an emphasis on tight close-ups of Laure's face or the occasional bit of Dardennes Brothers-style following the back of a head with a handheld camera. The film is also beautifully shot, courtesy of Crystel Fournier's lush cinematography, which plays up the idyllic nature of the children's rural woodland play area.

Worth seeing?
Tomboy is a beautifully directed, superbly acted and sharply observed study of emerging female sexuality that's by turns funny, thought provoking, suspenseful and heart-breaking. Highly recommended.

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Tomboy (U)
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Content updated: 25/09/2017 00:04

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