Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

{Tomboy opens in Seattle on Friday, January 6 and screens at SIFF Cinema at the Uptown through January 12}

Coming-of-age stories are hard to pull off without resorting to oft-used cliches, which is why I think Tomboy kind of blows most of them out of the water. Focusing on adolescent identity and exploration, this film pulls you close with astonishing performances and intimate camerawork. 

Director Celine Sciamma searched for unknowns for the kids' roles because she wanted the movie to feel as genuine as possible — and it does. Each one delivers such naturalness to the screen that it almost feels like you're spying on something private. 

10-year-old Laure (Zoe Heran) sports a short haircut and prefers to wear boy's shirts and tees, rather than girly dresses and lacy skirts. New to the neighborhood, when Laure meets the local group of kids and they think she's boy — she just kinda rolls with it.

Introducing herself as "Mikael", Laure finds power in hiding her true self, becoming a trusted friend and love interest to Lisa (Jeanne Disson), protector to her little sister Jeanne (the adorable Malonn Levana), and respected by the group as a whole. But of course, lies can't last forever, and as Summer comes to an end and Lisa starts to get closer to the truth, Laure must find new ways to hide.

The end result is one of the most depressing, yet honest, coming-of-age films I've ever seen. I kept waiting for some HUGE tragedy to happen, but it didn't – and it wasn't needed. There's tragedy enough in knowing that Laure will eventually have to end her fantasy life and come clean, most likely branded as an outcast for the foreseeable future.

Tomboy is not without moments of hope, but I definitely found myself crying more than smiling. Still, I'm glad I saw it and am now determined to watch Sciamma's Water Lilies (another coming-of-age drama about teen girls) – currently on streaming Netflix) and see if I like it as much as this one.