Tomboy (2011)

Director: Céline Sciamma
Writer: Céline Sciamma
Cast: Zoé Héran, Malonn Lévanna, Jeanne Disson, Sophie Cattani, Mathieu Demy
Part of: Viennale

Laure (Zoé Héran), her sister Jeanne (Malonn Lévanna), her father (Mathieu Demy) and her pregnant mother (Sophie Cattani) move to a new appartment. Laure mostly spends her time with Jeanne, while her mum is busy being very pregnant and her father works. When Laure goes out to play with the other kids of the area, Lisa (Jeanne Disson) mistakes her for a boy. Laure decides to go along with that and becomes Michaël. Michaël and Lisa hit it off, but how long until the kids find out?

What a wonderfully beautiful film that completely captured the summers of my childhood. It’s realistic and heartbreaking and funny and sweet and was definitely one of my absolute highlights of this year’s Viennale.

Despite me not growing up in France or in a situation that is like Laure’s situation, Sciamma really captured the feel of my summers about 15 years ago, when the sun always seemed to shine and I spent my days in the public swimming pool and my world almost entirely consisted only of other children. It’s wonderful to be taken back that way. [It’s the same mood that Stephen King can create – bevor the monsters show up.]

And all of that is achieved without nostalgia and without glossing over the hard bits. In fact, the film is quite heartbreaking at points. And at the same time (especially whenever Malonn Lévanna shows up) it is extremely funny.

But it’s not only Malonn Lévanna who was terrific. All of the children are great. But Zoé Héran and Malonn Lévanna do have a very special connection that is the heart of the film.

Unfortunately, things are a bit lost in translation. The translation fails to make it clear that it all happens because of Lisa’s mistake, for example, and there were a couple of things like that that corner the film into a certain interpretation. I really liked the audience talk because it opened up the playing field: Sciamma explained how she doesn’t necessarily see this as a transgender story, how Laure just plays along when Lisa mistakes her for a boy. And generally she seemed to have wanted things to remain more open. [It does work with either explanation though.]

Summarising: an honest, real and kind of private film that should be seen by everybody.


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