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Ten year old Laure isn t like most girls. She prefers football to dolls and sweaters to dresses. When Laure, her parents and little sister Jeanne move to a new neighbourhood, family life remains much the same. That is, until local girl Lisa mistakes Laure to be a boy.
Indulging in this exciting new identity, Laure becomes Michael, and so begins a summer of long sunny afternoons, playground games and first kisses. Yet with the school term fast approaching, and with suspicions arising amongst friends and family, Laure must face up to an uncertain future.
One of the great films made by adults for adults about children.--Little White Lies
A Flawless Performance--Total Film
An Absolute Delight--David Aldridge BBC5live
Top customer reviews
“Tomboy” is a film that I’d noticed before, having come across it on Amazon but had not been too keen on watching it as I thought that the “U” certificate and the young cast suggested a film that might have been aimed at a younger audience, and could be a film that would not appeal to me. But keen to see more of Céline Sciamma’s directed films I convinced myself I should give it a go.
And I am so glad I did – what a superb film it is. The acting is fantastic from lead actress Zoé Héran in the role of Laure and of Laure’s alter ego – Mickäel. And with the brilliant writing and directing from Céline Sciamma together with great photography (the special features are well worth a look at to get an insight to some of the camerawork) and a great supporting cast, this really is a very good film, with a story that is brilliantly observed, with suspense throughout much of the film with regard to whether what is central to the premise of the film will be revealed or not.
Both the film and the Special Features (and especially the interview with director Céline Sciamma) I would highly recommend.
On the DVD you get:
“Tomboy” (1 hour 25 minutes)
Behind the scenes Featurette (18 minutes) optional English Subtitles.
Interview with director Céline Sciamma (in English)
From then on Laure effectively leads a double life. At home her mum is pleased that for once she is hanging around with a girl rather than following boys about. Outside as Mickael, she gets to run free, playing shirtless football and spitting like a professional. There are complications too, not least when she needs to pee outdoors. Also, with Lisa's developing crush on the sensitive newcomer and the new school year only a few weeks away, there is the underlying sense that the truth will have to come out before long.
The subject matter is handled in a very naturalistic and sensitive way. The scenes of children playing out and jostling for position in their world are accurate and very engaging. The lead actor portrays her character's concurrent ease with being a boy and unease with the lie, sometimes with just a look. Her six year old sister Jeanne is a wonderful portrayal of a girly-girl who can competently lie to both sides in support of Laure, while she is gleefully getting her own way. The scenes at home with her parents are tender. The ending is low-key and believable without histrionics or being overly neat.
I approached the film with trepidation. While much admiring the work of Céline Sciamma, she tends to problematise gender issues in her films so far, making for films of tension and enlightenment rather than entertainment. I needn't have worried in this case: gender issues do play a major role, clearly, but they are treated with lightness and kept in the background. This is very much a film of childhood in general, both boys and girls, and as such enormously enjoyable. indeed, I could imagine that children would like this film, even though some critics see it as a film largely for adults.
There is a huge element of 'thriller' about it - that would please both adults and children. The game has to end eventually, at the latest when the school holidays are over. So we watch in nervous anticipation, anxious to see how Mikael/Laure is going to be discovered. And we are not let down by the film: none of the obvious things lead to her downfall, which ultimately happens through a totally paradox sequence of events. It could have been a disastrous outcome, but... maybe it doesn't have to be? You will have to watch the film to see what I mean. As to how the matter is resolved. After all, it is seen as a disaster for a boy to dress as a girl but tomboys are common enough, and changing names is only taking that issue a step further.
The directing is superb throughout, the way in which Céline Sciamma gets these very young children to act. The subtlety of the screenplay, which manages to avoid every imaginable cliché. The rhythm of the work. (I have commented elsewhere on her latest film, 'Girlhood', and questioned some of the acting there. She doesn't seem to have succeeded so well with adolescents as with children). Zoé Héran is superb throughout: she does have a mildly androgynous aura but ultimately, I couldn't doubt that she is a girl, albeit with short hair... The film was made at or near the banlieu town of Pontoise, where Sciamma grew up, but the town itself scarcely puts in an appearance; when not at home, the children are playing in the woods and fields. And yet, there is a very subtle hint of the closeness of the banlieu, which repeats itself throughout the film but you have to listen for it very closely. I at first interpreted what I was hearing as extraneous noise and It was only near the end of the film that that I 'got it'.
Why am I confident that the outcome will ultimately be a good one for Laure? Because of the beautiful final scene, not to be given away here. In this brief and understated scene, order is restored, explicitly marking the film as a comedy rather than as a tragedy. A sad film? Not at all, in my view. Laure is strong, and has a good family behind her. Whichever way her gender issue might go, one feels that she will be able to cope with with it. For all those interested in French film making, or childhood movies, or gender issues, or just a good movie, a must-see.
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