PLGFF film review: ‘Tomboy’


Narratives about those crossing the gender spectrum, in whatever capacity, are just beginning to enter mainstream culture. I often find myself wanting to see more well-rounded, and dare I say happy portrayals of non-gender conforming people on screen. Tomboy, a French film by Director Céline Sciamma, does not paint a wholly a rosy picture, but it does portray the young child protagonist with compassion and sincerity.

Ten year old Laure is mistaken for a boy when she moves to a new town over summer break. She embraces it fully, going by the name Michael, taking her shirt off, and even fashioning a makeshift packy out of Play-Doh. The film delves into the parentless world of children on summer vacation very well. The kids are fully fleshed out characters that are quite adorable and smart, even as they are still juvenile and innocent.

Laure’s little sister particularly shines as an incredibly precocious six year old that takes Laure’s temporary transition in stride. Indeed, though the kids in the movie can be cruel, as all kids can, it is the adults who are most disturbed and unsure of what to make of Laure’s transgression.

All the child actors are brilliant in their portrayals, seeming carefree lost in their world of summer. The main characters are also quite brave, whether they are sweetly interacting with a first kiss or openly showing their bodies in self-examination. The adults in the film at first give us a beautiful enough family scene to make us all wish we were part of this family, but falter as Laure’s revelation comes known. It is a reaction that is not wholly unexpected and, while sad, was also an understandable moment of profound fear and uncertainty.

In this way Tomboy was extremely successful as both a coming of age story and a family drama. And while we do not come to any conclusions about gender, friendship or community roles by the end we are left with the feeling of hope that Laure is on the right path.

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