Girls Lost

 

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Problems of adolescence portrayed from an entirely new angle.

 

Girls Lost

Gender benders: Tuva Jagell, Louise Nyvall and Wilma Holmén

 

This is a film that feels unique not because it deals with issues previously ignored by cinema but because it finds an unexpected and extraordinary way of approaching its subject matter. It was with Water Lilies (2007) and Tomboy (2011), those sensitive studies of girls particularly concerned with sexuality coming to the surface be it consciously or subconsciously, that Céline Sciamma made her name. But those films were essentially naturalistic whereas this piece by Sweden's Alexandra-Therese Keining, an adaptation by her of Jessica Schiefauer's book Pojkarno, is in total contrast to that.

 

Dream-like images at the very start of Girls Lost are just one part of the stylisation which initially even comes close to evoking the tropes of horror films, both pictorially and in its soundtrack. This proves to be a wise tactic even though we move into a more realistic world when 14-year-old Kim (Tuva Jagell) and her best friends, Momo (Louis Nyvall) and Bella (Wilma Holmén) are seen in school where they suffer at the hands of bullies. It is because of the tone of the opening that we are ready to accept the fantastical notion at the heart of the story which arises when the three girls drink from the flower of a magical plant growing in the greenhouse in Bella's garden. What this action does is to transform them into boys, a state which finds the bullies no longer recognising them as the girls they were and treating them in an entirely different way. It is the case that the transformation ends when the girls fall asleep, but they can always take more sap from the plant to repeat the process.

 

Plots that involve taking on other identities are usually, as in the case of the classic tale Vice Versa and in a number of Disney films, the subject of comedy, but the humour here is limited. Instead, with the impressive Tuva Jagell leading an able cast, which includes male actors to take over the roles of the girls when transformed, Girls Lost sets out to raise serious thought-provoking questions. Kim reacts differently from her friends to what they experience together, but this is not a didactic work with a specific message. What it does do is to invite the audience to ponder a whole series of questions prompted by the storyline including gender issues, role-playing, sexuality as a fixed or fluid state and social pressures to conform as well as showing how youthful friendships can be disrupted through the growth of contrasted sexual feelings. Some viewers may regret the refusal to offer a clear resolution (this is not a film that deals in answers), but Girls Lost is a truly original work that operates on its own terms and succeeds in making us accept them.  

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Tuva Jagell, Louise Nyvall, Wilma Holmén, Emrik Öhlander, Alexander Gustavsson, Vilgot Ostwald Vesterlund, Mandus Berg, Adam Dahlgren, Filip Vester, Anette Nääs, Olle Wirenhed, Lars Väringer.


Dir Alexandra-Therese Keining, Pro Helena Wirenhed, Olle Wirenhed, Jessica Ask and Markku Flink, Screenplay (from the book Pojkarna by Jessica Schiefauer) Alexandra-Therese Keining, Ph Ragna Jorming, Pro Des Kaisa Mäkinen, Ed Malin Lindström, Music Sophia Ersson, Costumes Sara Pertmann.


Götafilm/Periferia Productions KY/Film i Väst/Sveriges Television-Peccadillo Pictures.
106 mins. Sweden/Finland/Denmark. 2015. Rel: 4 November 2016. Cert. 15
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