Initially gripping, Girlhood gives us a glimpse into Marieme’s (Karidja Touré) world. The first scene portrays an unexpected, immediate womanly strength through the camaraderie of football, but we are only gently sprinkled with a sense of Marieme’s family life. A girl with too much responsibility at home who wants to succeed in school, but is halted due to academic bureaucracies.
What didn’t work for me was the lack of back story on Marieme’s family and home life. We don’t get the chance to trust her as a character yet because we don't know enough about her mother, brother and two younger sisters. The few scenes that that we do see the mother hardly show us who she is. We don’t know the brother’s motive until nearly three quarters through, and even then we are still left with questions.
But what does work is the female bonding that all of us seek out—whether in our teens, mid-thirties, or nearing midlife. Girlhood displays that need to belong, to lay down roots, and that requirement to feel safe. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the friendships and sisterhood form between Marieme and the three young, opinionated girls. I was riveted by how Marieme started to fall deeper into “gang life” while the three girls try to talk some sense into her, and suddenly, they seem less dangerous.
Many times the character shifts (in Marieme) were not earned due to a lack of character development. Though the shifts were too sudden, I could genuinely see the purpose behind this because I felt this was a bold attempt to display how quick we choose sides and change who we are to suit others all in hopes to end that search for a secure fitting in life. Girlhood tells a tale we all know too well, but it is still a tale that still needs telling. A story retold to suit today’s youth and still valid for every young woman.
As a thirty-something, black female who grew up in similar circumstances, I can see, and more importantly, feel the pulsing bass in this film, it’s that need to tell a truth, and I enjoyed watching this film through Marieme's strong and empowering eyes.
Although this powerful film told a good story, more tension and power could have been created if the scene was shown where Lady’s hair was cut off, instead of just hinting at it. This would have spoken in so many ways (especially to today’s young black woman). In the last second we are left knowing Marieme will do big things. We see Marieme’s true strength when she does not open the door that leads her back home.
Director: Céline Sciamma
Writer: Céline Sciamma
Starring: Karidja Touré, Assa Sylla, Lindsay Karamoh, Mariétou Touré