A great central performance in a film that provokes mixed feelings.


Leonie Krippendorff's film, a contemporary tale set in Berlin, feels hugely authentic but that only serves to make its opening scenes very dispiriting. Cocoon has a narrator: she is 14-year-old Nora (Lena Urgendowsky) who lives with her somewhat older sister Julie (Lena Klenke) and the two of them go around with Nora's best friend Aylin (Elina Vildanova). The fact that the sexually frank story is told from a female perspective means that early scenes include Nora's first period and talk of tampons, but it also seems that these girls and the boys they encounter are wholly preoccupied by just two subjects, sex and drugs. It is believable enough as a portrait of our highly sexualised world but initially there is nothing to engage us in a positive way. To regret that is not to be naive for after all one of this year's best films, Rocks, also felt real in its depiction of today's youth but it managed to capture their energy and thus without seeming phoney took on a more positive tone.


However, Cocoon does develop and it is aided by a first-class performance from Lena Urgendowsky whose Nora is very much the central figure here. The focus shifts when Nora meets Romy (Jella Haase), a blonde who has just come into Nora's school as a pupil and at once proves helpful to Nora. The attraction that Nora feels for Romy is portrayed in a way that at last brings gentleness into the film and Cocoon then grows into a portrayal of first love from a lesbian viewpoint. We still follow the lives of Julie and Aylin, however, and there are also scenes featuring Vivienne (Anja Schneider), the mother of Nora and Julie, who has largely left them to their own devices in order to have a separate life of her own. Nevertheless, the relationship between Nora and Romy and how it develops is the film's central concern.


At a time when there is much talk of who owns material and has the right to handle it on screen some may think that only a woman should make a film like this. However, despite the fact that it dealt with much older characters, I could not help but think of Lianna (1982) when watching Cocoon since both feature a central figure experiencing lesbian love for the first time. Lianna was made by John Sayles but I still think that it is the outstanding film on this subject, not least because the ending is perfectly judged. In Cocoon, I find the later stages somewhat less convincing and it just feels heavy-handed and clichéd when at the close it builds on its title by incorporating images first of a caterpillar and then of a butterfly. Even so, when at its best Cocoon offers some admirable scenes and that is due equally to Leonie Krippendorff and to Lena Urgendowsky.


Original title: Kokon.




Cast: Lena Urgendowsky, Jella Haase, Lena Klenke, Elina Vildanova, Franz Hagn, Anja Schneider, Kim Riedle, Ogulcan Sert, Bill Becker, Hussein Eliraqui, Jakob Fischer.


Dir Leonie Krippendorff, Pro Jost Hering, Screenplay Leonie Krippendorff, Ph Martin Neumeyer, Pro Des Josefine Lindner, Ed Emma Gräf, Music Maya Postepski.


Jost Hering Filmproduktion/Das Kleine Fernsehspiel (ZDF)/Amard Bird Films-Peccadillo Pictures.
99 mins. Germany. 2020. Rel: 11 December 2020. Available in cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema and BFI Player. Cert. 15.