Throughout the decades, we see many coming-of-age stories, but they’re usually told from the perspective of young boys.
They’re usually good films as they remind us of a simpler time when the weight of responsibility hadn’t fully set in.
But how often do you see a portrayal of a teenage girl — a black teenage girl nonetheless?
Sixteen-year-old Marieme [Karidja Touré] lives a very limited existence.
In that case, her grades are low, she has no real responsible parental figure taking care of her and her sister and she has little to no friends.
All of this burns up inside her, that is until the day she meets a group of older girls [Assa Sylla, Mariétou Touré, and Lindsay Karamoh] who take her under their wing.
These girls are everything that Marieme isn’t which is outgoing and rebellious and piques her interest.
Thanks to this group, she discovers a whole new persona that she didn’t know existed within herself.
Adolescence is the time in life when we all find out who we really are. Marieme goes through the natural learning experience.
To those who are asking the question, no, this isn’t a sequel or spin-off of the 12-year epic “Boyhood.” This is a
different beast altogether. Most teenagers go through the “screw authority” rebellion phase at least once in their lives. This is a portrayal of adolescence that rips away the stereotypical mask of a rebel story as instead shows it from a distinct perspective.
Marieme doesn’t immediately turn to drugs and sex, but rather gets into shouting matches with other girls, rents out hotel rooms for parties with friends and just has fun in general.
The element of her character is that, at the start of the film, she’s a blank slate and, when this group of girls enters her life, she becomes full of life even if it doesn’t lead to her making the best decisions.
Karidja successfully plays someone that certain people can look at and relate to.
Not all teens turn to drugs and booze, but we all have the wish to belong somewhere.
The film itself is a character study where Marieme goes through an arc that I’m sure some people will look at and see themselves.
Honestly it’s great to see a strong yet vulnerable female character.
Freedom — isn’t that all we want inside? That deep desire to have next to no worries in the world besides you and yourself? Freedom is the theme of “Girlhood” and that’s how the structure of the story plays out.
There’s no other story than the journey of Marieme. Individual moments make up her character development and very little is romanticized.
Watching these girls act cool and rebellious fascinates her because it’s something that she never thought possible.
Once she gets into the habit, the consequences of her actions aren’t glossed over.
Eventually, there’s a point in life where you have to face the facts and grow up.
Life is a learning experience and if we all acted like we did when we were adolescents, who knows where we would end up?
Director Céline Sciamma effortlessly told the story of a black teenager finding herself in a way that would have been much different under the hands of an incompetent filmmaker.
But luckily Céline and cast turned out a unique take on the coming-of-age tale.
Matt Bilodeau can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org