Tomboy (2011)

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Written and directed by Celine Sciamma, Tomboy is an effective, and affecting, look at the innocence of children and how they sometimes end up muddling through life while they decide whether or not they like the fit of their exterior physical form.

Zoe Heran plays Laure, a 10-year old girl who isn’t offended when local kids mistake her for a boy. In fact, she happily goes along with it and enjoys the rougher play and being picked for the football team, etc. But can she keep up the ruse for as long as she needs/wants to?

Tomboy really does a good job of taking an interesting and thought-provoking central idea and filtering it through the eyes of children to make it even easier for viewers to identify with. Despite a number of superficial improvements I wouldn’t mind being made (e.g. I’m not a fan of the big nose in the middle of my face), I’ve always felt pretty comfortable in my body. Not necessarily confident, but comfortable. This film serves as a reminder that there are many people who struggle internally every day with how their body makes them feel. It may be about transgender issues, which it deals with in a very effective and persuasive way, but it also, by default, gives viewers something to ponder about any form of self-identification.

Sciamma may be the guiding hand behind the camera, but she’s given some great assistance by Heran in the main role, supported by Jeanne Disson (as Lisa, a young girl who causes some further confusion for Laure), Malonn Levana (as Jeanne, Laure’s little sister) and Sophie Cattani (as Laure’s mother). There are also some male cast members, but this is a movie very much focused on the females, even while one tries to pass herself off as a male.

Nothing is flippantly dismissed or viewed judgmentally and, in fact, nothing is ever really made 100% unambiguous. Laure is a child going through a number of phases that children go through. Sometimes those childhood moments define who the adult will be and sometimes they’re forgotten hours later. Sometimes behaviour is symptomatic of so much more going on beneath the surface and sometimes it’s just a child being, well, childish.

Despite the different possible interpretations of certain scenes within the movie that doesn’t take anything away from the effectiveness of it all. It’s a sweet and emotional tale that may well have viewers thinking back fondly on their own childhoods and remembering a time before society decided what pigeonholes we were all supposed to reside in.

WRITER/DIRECTOR: CELINE SCIAMMA
STARS: ZOE HERAN, JEANNE DISSON, MALONN LEVANA, SOPHIE CATTANI, MATHIEU DEMY
RUNTIME: 84 MINS APPROX
COUNTRY: FRANCE

Film Rating: ★★★½☆

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