Tomboy Review

A 10 year old girl, settling into her new neighborhood outside Paris, is mistaken for a boy and decides to live up to this new identity.

FilmNotebook-Tomboy_t670Tomboy is a touching French drama about a young girl who is mistaken for a boy, and decides to live up to her new identity. The style of the film is beautiful and warm, with long drawn out scenes and very little sound or music. The colour blue is used a lot, giving a cool, almost peaceful atmosphere to the entire film. The little dialogue and non diegetic sound is very effective, it adds an air of simplicity which ultimately relates to the theme of childhood and growing up.

The style of the film and the clever and simplistic dialogue allows the viewer to watch the children represented in the film from a different angle than usual. Its not adult dominated, and it reminds us of how important seemingly trivial childhood problems can seem when you’re young. It also allows you to fully engage and empathise with Laure (or Mickael) as we are watching the entire film from her perspective.

FilmTomboy_jpg_627x325_crop_upscale_q85The simplicity is almost carefree, which emphasizes the childhood theme and makes it more relatable.

What I like about this film is the fact that it is wholly about the children, yet the idea of someone being sexually confused is quite an adult concept. It reminds us about the importance of the growing up process, and allows the audience to remember their own childhood confusions; its essentially about children “finding themselves”. The adults in the film, who appear infrequently, are not named; so we have no particular connection with them, they are just the mother and father figure’s of the lead character. This is an important technique as it distances the viewer from the adults in the story, enabling them to more fully engage with the children.

The opening is stunning, and for me possibly the best part of the film. The opening shot is of the back of Laure’s head as she is standing in the front of the car looking out of the sun roof. Its an unusual shot to use for the opening of a film, because like photography, its usually not the done thing to show the back of a persons head; however I thought it was a very interesting and thought provoking introduction to the lead character. We don’t see her face for a while to begin with, because the close up of the back of her head cuts to a shot of her hand. The actress, Zoe Heran, looks both masculine and feminine, so its not initially easy to tell and the opening scene highlights this by showing her face last. This of course is key to the film as Laure eventually decides to pretend to be a boy.

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This is a coming of age drama that deals with an issue common in society, yet it barely scratches the surface. However, contrary to some criticisms I have read, I liked that the film doesn’t deal with the deeper issue of a young girl wanting to be a boy, because again it reflects the theme of childhood innocence and growing up.

Some of the camera shots and mise en scene are stunning, it has a really raw yet pure and peaceful feel to it. The use of long takes draws the film out and makes every scene slow and mesmerizing. The performances by the children involved are fantastic, particularly Zoe Heran and Malonn Levana (who plays Laure’s younger sister).

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5 thoughts on “Tomboy Review

  1. Good write up! 🙂
    If I had a niggle to hold against this film it would be that the dialogue for the younger sister (who admittedly was fantastic) was a little too advanced in both its philosophy and verbosity. She was supposed to be what – 6? I know the French are supposed to be pretentious but really… 😉 😛

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  2. I love this movie! I haven’t seen it in awhile, but I remember it really provoked some thoughts in me. If my memory serves me, I remember Laure is punished for lying about her gender by wearing a dress. Watching that mortified me because I can only imagine how horrific of an experience that would be as a child. Then it made me think why society had made those little things that go with each gender such a big deal? Who cares if you wear pants or wear dresses, or say you’re a boy or a girl, a person’s a person! Anyways, great review 🙂 Thanks for reminding me of this nice, little gem!

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    1. Glad you liked it too 😀 Yeah I had the same reaction…and I was a tomboy as a kid (although not to the point where I pretended to be a boy). A very thought provoking film, and beautifully shot too 🙂

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