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Girl Picture ★★★★



Director: Alli Haapasalo

Cast: Aamu Milanoff, Eleonoora Kauhanen, Linnea Leino

Release: TBC

Girl Picture’s exuberance and chemistry are undeniable as it tackles a coming-of-age narrative from the perspective of three disparate young women, Mimmi, Emma and Rönkkö, over the course of three Fridays. Whilst the overall themes of self-discovery, sexual exploration and navigating teenage angst and pressures are not revolutionary, the film’s honest enthusiasm and the engaging performances of its main characters ensure that the film’s energy resonates.

Girl Picture’s ability to immerse itself within the emotions of the young women, helped by a resonating score and soundtrack, has a unique impact as the film seeks not to over analyse. Instead, the anger felt by Mimmi as the main protagonist and the centre of the friendship circle reverberates across the screen as she enters into physical altercations with peers playing sports and is prone to antagonistic behaviour towards customers. This heightened emotion is also reflected in the film’s portrayal of competitiveness within sports. Emma is an ice skater, providing an additional dynamic exploring the intensity, commitment and passion needed to succeed in that arena. Similar to other films of sports obsession, such as The Novice and Black Swan, this sense of intensity dovetails neatly into the notion of self-discovery and development of interests as an adolescent. Director Alli Haapsalo’s use of a vibrant colour palette during such moments of angst is an effective device that reflects the anger and passion felt by the young women with minimal dialogue and scenes bathed in red hues and earthy colours. The impact is a visual, emotional feast for the eyes.

Haapsalo directs the characters skilfully, melding that colour dynamic to convey the heightened emotions that many can probably relate to experiencing as teenagers. However, the love interest between Emma and Mimmi seems a tad superficial, given their different levels of ambition, which results in an uneven tone for the friendship circle and the film overall. Given the disparate themes that the film explores, it is challenging to know the impact and message Haapsalo aims for. During various scenes, the impression given is that the writing ultimately succumbed to adopting the safe stereotype of opposites attracting a degree of sentimentality to the relationship. Frankly, the witty dynamics between Rönnkö and Mimmi, who watch the French film The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie whilst working in a dead-end job, are more convincing as the film flits between romantic angst and friendship comedy.

Girl Picture’s emphasis on the core female friendship piques that interest. There are honest, emotional dialogues that seem authentic and not over dramatised with simple, enjoyable interactions concerning life, love, and just having fun. Mimmi’s trajectory is perhaps the most intriguing to witness within the friendship circle, impressively played by Aamu Milanoff, who resembles a young Angelina Jolie from Girl Interrupted with blonde eyebrows and the psychological trauma on display. Milanoff’s is a breakthrough performance eschewing the predictable teenage girl on-screen antics, and so she will be one to watch in future roles. Unfortunately, Girl Picture suffers from its limitations in its failure to delve further into Mimmi’s psyche and the source of her rage, which may therefore not satisfy Haapsalo’s desired intention.

It is, therefore, refreshing to see a film within this coming-of-age narrative being willing to explore the messiness of the human condition via the non-verbal signals that we all hope that others may be able to interpret to understand us fully. The film excels in its slow-paced focus on the emotions of the young women conveyed through glances rather than relying on heavy exposition. However, it does not seem to realise its potential fully due to its inability to be consistent with probing beyond conventions despite the messiness portrayed on screen. Still, some amusing scenes and awkward moments include having a dish called ‘Love is Like a Wave’ served on one of Rönkkõ’s many dates, which adds to the overall appeal.

Girl Picture effortlessly manages to be that combination of enticing and hopeful. It is a fun watch, especially during the scenes with the captivating Mimmi. The film’s positivity of female friendships grounded in reality makes this an ideal film to watch and reminisce about those formative teenage years. It celebrates friendship overall and highlights, through its characters, that compassion and understanding may indeed be what the heart desires as part of that self-discovery on the path to adulthood. Girl Picture certainly leaves a warm glow after following the journey of these three young women, which is a perfect ingredient for a film.

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