Connect with us

Featured Review

Sundance London 2024 – Girls Will Be Girls ★★★



Released: September 20, 2024

Director: Shuchi Talati

Starring: Preeti Panigrahi, Kesav Binoy Kiron, Kani Kusruti

Directed and written by Shuchi Talati, Girls Will Be Girls is a new Indo-French coming-of-age drama that premiered at the 2024 Sundance London Film Festival where it won the World Cinema Dramatic Audience Award. This is Talati’s first feature film – and it is a very impressive directorial feature-length debut –inspired by the director’s own experience in her school growing up. The movie seems to be doing well in the festival circuit as it also was shown as part of the Cannes Film Festival, Gothenburg Film Festival and, most recently, the Sundance London Film Festival.

Girls Will Be Girls is set in a strict boarding school in the Himalayas where 16-year-old Mira (Preeti Panigrahi) is top of the class and has just been nominated head prefect – and is the first girl to do so at the school – when the film starts. When she meets Sri (Kesav Binoy Kiron), a new student who has just moved there, Mira will embark on a journey to discover her desire and romance. However, her rebellious coming-of-age awakening is disrupted by her strict family’s constant control over her life. This is particularly true in the case of her mother Anila (Kani Kusruti) who never got to experience this for herself, fuelling a complicated relationship with her daughter.

The film does a great job of immersing the audience in the culture it is set in. Girls Will Be Girls paints a realistic portrayal of the pressure and social norms expected in Mira’s culture as well as in her family even to those of us who may not have any direct experience with it. Soon, we also learn all about the internal culture of the school, including its strict teachers and inflexible rules on uniforms – which seem to be especially aimed at the girls. In the film’s heartbreaking analysis of gender-based and feminist issues, it becomes soon clear how the girls’ behaviour and actions are constantly policed and subject to punishment, but the boys can easily get away with a lot more.

The ambitious filmmaking and impressive camera work truly set this film apart as every shot reveals a high level of care and attention in constructing it. Notably in how the movie really uses its setting to symbolically frame its characters. This is particularly fascinating as the characters are perfectly integrated within their surroundings, whether that is Mira’s house or the boarding school that we learn to know and recognise as Girls Will Be Girls goes on. The acting is also key to the movie’s success with its layered and beautiful performances. Kani Kusruti a standout in her stellar portrayal of a complicated mother figure that we both see as the antagonists but also end up taking a liking to.

Unfortunately, Girls Will Be Girls ends up losing itself in its second half when the film focuses almost entirely on wrapping up various plotlines – especially those that include the side characters we rarely see on screen which hurts the pacing of the entire movie. You also wish some characters were explored more, yet the movie decides to keep its focus tight on the three main characters and emphasis on the mother-daughter relationship. This would not be an issue per se, but there is so much that could have been done with the other characters, particularly the other girls in the school who seem to act exclusively as a counterpart to Mira rather than characters in their own right.

Despite the very specific geographical context of the film. The themes Girls Will Be Girls touches on are very much universal, delving into the politics of gender that will seem familiar to many of us in the audience. It’s also really sweet that Talati intentionally had a majorly female crew working on this film which allowed her to create a safe space where girls would be girls, as the title of the film itself suggests, in the best way possible. This may not be true in Mira’s strict school or house controlled by an overbearing mother, but at least in real life, it seems like there was truly a place for girls to have the freedom and safety to be girls.

Just For You