Brutal and oftentimes graphic realism is mixed with a dreamlike quality on director Marielle Heller’s (episodes of Transparent and Casual) adaptation of the novel by Phoebe Gloeckner. It made its first appearance as a play and now has been done as a feature film.
If you are thinking this is a teen film or one you can watch with your teenage think again. It is not meant for teenagers. Rather for adults allowing them a look back at their teen years. Yes, it is a coming of age film, but a different type of one. Gives a true picture of how and what young women feel after having sex for the first time. This is not a film that shortchanges the emotions involved in sex for young women. It also makes you aware of the double standards you have in regards to males and females in this type of film. Some might be disturbed because it is a female going through this, but would not think twice if it were a male charcter.
We are in San Francisco and the year is 1976. Minnie Goetze (Bel Powley – Equals) is a teenage girl trying to find her way in the world. Like most girls her age (15), Minnie is blossoming sexually and looking for love. She is also trying to figure out where she fits into in the world.
Unfortunately, this artistically gifted, imaginative young girl has her first sexual experience and taste of love with a much older man. Making things all the more complex is that he is her mother’s (Kristen Wiig – Bridesmaids, The Martian) boyfriend, Monroe (Alexander Skarsgard – from television’s True Blood).
The relationship with Monroe has its toll on everyone involved. Trust is broken and the result is a fissure in the mother-daughter relationship. This leads to Minnie leaving home and beginning to involve herself in some questionable behaviour and situations.
What is great about the film is that it does not judge any of the characters. Not a cynical moment to be found. You don’t see Minnie as a weirdo or nymphomaniac, her mother as a bad mother or Monroe as a pedophile. All are portrayed as flawed, and as such, normal human beings. The biggest applause for that has to go to Skarsgard. He had the toughest job making his character likeable and relatable. Without the nuances he portrays Monroe with you would just end up hating him as a predator. Instead you see he is emotionally underdeveloped and most of the times Minnie ends up being the more mature of the two.
British actress Bel Powley was a real discovery for me in this film. Having never seen her before I was blown away at her courage and ability to realistically portray this character. She carries the film as she is in every scene, but never buckles under the pressure. And never slips into her British accent.
Filling out the storytelling aspect of the film is the animation and drawings. They are used to illustrate how Minnie is thinking and feeling. It adds a whole other dimension to the story and lends to the dreamy and creative feel to the picture.
-Commentary with Marielle Heller and Actors Bel Powley + Alexander Skarsgard
-Marielle’s Journey: Bringing the Diary to Life
-Q&A with Marielle Heller, Alexander Skarsgard and Bel Powley
-Previews of Irrational Man, Jimmy’s Hall, Infinite Polar Bear, Truth, Grandma, Labyrinth of Lies