This is a French drama about a teenage girl named Marieme (Karidja Touré), who lives in a deprived Parisian neighbourhood. With a difficult home life and no real opportunities, she finds friendship in a gang.
A superb slice of social realism, the film has its share of sadness. But it also has moments of elation, which celebrate friendship and sisterhood. One stand-out scene sees Marieme and her friends dancing to Diamonds by Rihanna; a mediocre pop song that takes on meaningful resonance.
The cast, some of whom were scouted in the street, are impressively naturalistic – particularly the young Touré, who’s at the centre of every scene. We watch Marieme hit dead ends wherever she turns; her brother is abusive, her friends antisocial and her professional prospects non-existent.
Writer/director Céline Sciamma treats her subjects with respect and compassion, free of judgement, sensationalism or condescension. There’s a wonderfully memorable shot that pans across a long line of smiling young women, all connected and interlocking; arms round shoulders, fizzing with laughter and affection.
The film’s third act falters narratively, but the movie is interesting and touching throughout, with layer upon layer of social commentary. It’s thematically complex, politically conscious and emotionally compelling.
Girlhood (Bande de filles) is a sensitive study of femininity, opportunity and identity. It’s characterised by a sense of strength underlying the often bleak drama. Like last month’s The Good Lie, this is a film from the perspective of people largely neglected by cinema – and society as a whole.