You’d think that the highlight of attending the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year would be CNN’s documentary on Alexei Navalny and the Russian establishment’s assasination attempt that he survived and then exposed.
— CNN (@CNN) April 17, 2022
Or, maybe even the Ukrainian film Klondike, about the struggle to survive on the border between Ukraine and Russia (Predating the war, but still a deeply violent existence to live in).
KLONDIKE 11 Kasım'dan itibaren sinemalarda!
— KLONDIKE (@klondike_movie) November 11, 2022
I did, admittedly, enjoy the Elizabeth Banks starrer “Call Jane” about “The Janes”, a network of women who provided safe abortions and support in pre-Roe V Wade America. Chilling, given recent events, that this might become a thing again.
— Roadside Attractions (@roadsidetweets) November 4, 2022
I regret to inform you that, as politically relevant as these might’ve been, and as evocatively indie and brilliantly executed most films at Sundance tend to be, nothing stirred the soul quite like the Finnish entrant, “Girl Picture”, or “Tytöt tytöt tytöt” (“Girls Girls Girls”).
— SundanceFilmFestival (@sundancefest) January 28, 2022
It’s a coming-of-age film revolving around three teenage girls, presented in three acts across three fridays. Mimmi, Ronkko and Emma are high schoolers navigating love, sex and everything in between and director Alli Haapasalo weaves a series of anecdotes and reflections in ways that radiate warmth in every frame.
Mimmi and Ronkko are best friends, working a smoothie shop together (watch for the hilariously punny smoothie names) after high school, swapping sexcapades and band t-shirts with the natural flow and chemistry that makes late adolescence feel just a little too long ago. The casually entangled limbs as they apply each other’s makeup for a party in the first act show intimately female friendship in all its glory, with quips and blunt truths exchanged at a lovingly natural cadence.
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It is at said party that Mimmi discovers Emma and her intense commitment to figure skating, instinctually kissing her in the next scene at a barely-lit nightclub followed by various scenes of sapphic intimacy that deconstruct the apathetic punk trope that Mimmi has been framed in. The gentle unfurling of affection and love exude simplicity and don’t oversexualise or overdramatise anything in particular(looking at you, Euphoria!) and show the whirlwind of young love as it is.
Ronkko, meanwhile, is on a parallel pursuit, just as honourable: An Orgasm. The general male ineptitude regarding sexually stimulating a woman is portrayed beautifully: in a dusk-lit outhouse, after incompetently navigating her vulva like it’s Pan’s Labrinth, we are treated to a lovely show of male aggression and arrogance from rich boy Sipi, holding her accountable for his inability to pleasure her.
As it progresses, the film’s antagonist shows itself to be cynicism and antagonism itself. The standard third-act drama and fireworks are minimised, which somehow makes the resolution more fulfilling, delivering relief and tenderness in the closing sequences of the film that closely mirrors real life with just a bit more elegance and a tinge of rose.
This film hit all the right spots in the mind, heart and soul. It was a Nordic, sapphic reflection of Greta Gerwig’s “Ladybird” without the looming threat of growing up. It was girlhood before it was womanhood. This is a sentiment that the director, Haapasalo expressed in the panel (disclosure: I attended it) at the premiere of the film, stating that the film’s name was a mission statement:
“I called the film Tytöt tytöt tytö(Girls girls girls) to celebrate…girls! People make the mistake of calling adolescent girls ‘young women’, maturing them before their time. Girlhood is a beautiful thing and I wanted to celebrate that!”
The fountain of femininity that this film offers is just that: beautiful, youthful, intimate, gentle and with a loud, beating heart that echoes within me still.
There has been a dour and downright dark atmosphere around women’s stories recently, as the world of film reflects the reckoning of transparency around millenia of abuse and aggression. In that spirit, Girl Picture is a reclamation of lightheartedness, of tenderness, devoid of big, societal points to make because girls (and women) are owed representation and empowerment beyond just political agendas and stories of trauma.
Look, as someone who’s spent a turbulent adolescence, and now adulthood, fighting norms of gender and sexuality, this film is a warm cup of hot chocolate to the barren Finnish winter of melancholy that memories of teenage life evoke.
This is a film that soothes, cheers and nurtures you in the knowledge that there are stories like this in the world: No spectacle, no pretense, just whirlwinds and disappointments and the actual struggle of loving and being intimate for the first time and making friends and keeping love alive.
There’s no boomboxes held up outside a window in the rain. There’s no placards at a doorstep in the snow. There is a spilled smoothie that is, for some reason, ignored in the interest of a hug, which is as melodramatic as “Girl Picture” gets.
Watch this film to watch a story of the little composite parts that make affection persevere. Watch this film to laugh at the banter, cry at the conflict and tearfully grin at resolution. More than anything, watch this film for girlhood, for youthfulness, for hope.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: The Film’s opening credits Featured Photo Credit: Screenshot from the film’s trailer.