Sunday, 29 July 2012

Tomboy (2011)

Tomboy tells the story of 10 year old french girl Laure who, after being mistaken for a boy, creates a new identity, Mickael. The film studies the relationship between Laure and the development of her alter-ego, the relationships that develop between children and the consequences of deceit.

Director and screenwriter Cecile Sciamma handles the subject matter with a great deal of sensitivity. Tomboy, is Boys Don't Cry (1999) minus the sensationalism and brutality. Sciamma creates a picturesque playground in which children frolic free of adults and where the only darkness is cast by the shadows beneath the blazing sunshine. Gender-swap is normally the basis of a "hilarious" comedy (She's the Man (2006), It's a Boy/Girl Thing (2006), Just One of The Guys (1985)). Tomboy does not explore witty mishaps or farcical blunders, instead the subject is tackled so subtley it breezes gently throughout the film and is not once exploited for shock tactics, twists or laughs. Author Kathleen Winter adopts a similar approach in her incredible 2011 novel Annabel perhaps heralding a new-wave in how gender confusion is addressed in the arts.  The overall tone of Tomboy is so refreshingly innocent that it evokes a nostalgic twang for that time in your life when the world was devoid of all gloom and horror.

The sheer genius of Tomboy is down to the outstanding performances from the children. The secondary characters use the skillset of an improvised theatre group, talking over one another, fighting for their voices to be heard and unafraid to express themselves physically.  Laure/ Mickael's little sister Jeanne (Malon Levanna) is mesmerising, her skill matches that of a young Drew Barrymore. The combined talent is so, that it's easy to forget that you are watching actors let alone children. All of the performances are so subtle, natural and true but the real star here is the protagonist played by Zoe Heran, who performs her dual roles to such a superior degree, that she trancends all stereotypes to create a compelling character that is undeniably unique and equally unforgetable. Tomboy is a huge achievement in all aspects of film. It's written, directed and executed beautifully and is well deserved of all praise.

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