Runtime: 84 mins Director: Céline Sciamma Cast:Zoé Héran, Malonn Lévana and Jeanne Disson
There’s a new kid in town
When I saw the trailer for tomboy I was intrigued by what film it could possibly be, so without subtitles I brought my A game french to the table.Zoe Heran plays Laure, the ten-year-old tomboy of the title, who has moved with her parents and six-year-old sister to a new town. She’ll be starting at the local school in a few weeks, but until then she spends the summer babysitting her sister for her very pregnant mother while dad’s out at work and hanging out with the other children that live in the apartment complex. The only problem is Laure has told her new friends that she’s a boy, and that his name is Mikael. Mikael becomes close to Lisa and a mutual crush develops. With the first day of school – and discovery of her secret – rapidly approaching, Laure becomes increasingly anxious to keep hold of the happiness she finds in being Mikael.
With the focus squarely on the children – a hugely endearing bunch of varying ages – a significant portion of the film simply shows them at play, and those scenes are the film’s best with the actors delivering naturalistic and thoroughly genuine, authentic performances – it appears the director was simply content to just quietly and unobtrusively film from the background while they behaved like, well, children. The consequence is that it’s a film full of laughter. That infectious laughter is so central to the film that it’s still happily ringing in my ears hours after the credits rolled.Heran is great; totally convincing in what is essentially both a male and female role. The most delightful moppet award goes to Malonn Levana as the sister. Wise beyond her years but a million miles away from all the Hollywood clichés that phrase brings to mind, her relationship with Laure is the film’s most important and the chemistry between the two girls is magnificent. The tenderness and understanding present in that relationship extends throughout the family as well: the film is filled with quiet, intimate moments shared between them. They’re not cartoon characters and they’re not idealised, they’re just a really nice little unit and it’s a joy to spend 81 minutes in their company.
It’s not all sweetness and roses though. Mikael’s self-made predicament is as uncomfortable for the audience as it is for him. As he and Lisa fall for each other the unfairness of his lie starts to sting, and simple things like going to the toilet cause problems too. Obviously things won’t end well, but when Mikael is finally discovered the fallout is refreshingly credible: people get very, very hurt, and it’s heartbreaking to watch.However Tomboy thankfully ends on a hopeful note. It’s a rare trick to craft a film so uplifting, so powerful, yet remain completely committed to authentic human emotions and an admirable absence of audience manipulation.7.5/10