Mikael is a popular boy. After moving with his family to a new area he soon associates with the local kids, gets a tentative girlfriend whilst all the while being a doting brother to younger sister Jeanne. The trouble is Mikael isn’t actually a boy and is instead a girl named Laure. Thus the foundations for Céline Sciamma’s Tomboy are laid.
Growing up isn’t easy for anyone. Pangs, teenage mood swings as well as the physical changes that ensue all vie with each other to make growing up one of the hardest things to do in life. For ten year-old Laure the trouble centres on her sexual identity and, although its never an issue overtly discussed within the confines of the film, Tomboy expertly (and discreetly) explores the subject.
The casting is brilliant. From the doting mother and father figures down to the neighbouring children, Tomboy excels in its performances. Zoé Héran is a revelation as Mikael, wonderfully capturing the awkwardness of the situation whilst not allowing the character to appear pathetic. His troubles are endearing and the lengths he goes to to join his friends on a swimming trip are both comic and agonising. Younger sister Jeanne is played adeptly by Malonn Lévana, whose facial expressions and physical actions outplay several of the adults in the film.
Although Tomboy explores some delicate issues, the tone remains light. As absorbing as it is touching, the film is adequately described by Little White Lies; it is ‘one of the great films made by adults for adults about children’.
Best bit: The clay scene.
Best performance: Zoé Héldan.
Best line: ‘You look great as a girl’.
Best song: Para One – Always.