Tomboy ★★★★

Tomboy is that type of film that gets better the more you think about it, and I sure have been thinking about it. While watching it I found myself getting a little bored in spots which is odd really because I tend to really like slow paced films that take their time with characters. This one, though, spent altogether too much time going between exactly two sets: kids playing and the familial apartment. Back to kids playing, back to the apartment. This went on for so long, probably the entire film now that I think about it, that I got a little fed up. Having said that, I am so glad I didn't fall asleep because there was something almost hypnotizing about the rhythm of the film and the reactions of the main character.

I want to warn you that this film should be seen without reading anything. I'm not going to give anything away here but even reading IMDB could make your experience a little less interesting, so avoid if you can. All you need to know is that it is the story of a pre-teen who moves to a new home and neighbourhood and befriends the local kids. It is story of self-discovery at a precarious time in one's development, and the film doesn't hold back on showing embarrassing situations. You will remember what it was like at that age and cringe a couple of times, and you will see how set the line is between girls and boys, even at such a young age. If you have a particular interest in the makings of femininity and masculinity this film is a must. It explores the realities of both when they are being formed. Well, maybe not formed per se because we aren't talking babies here or 3 year olds here, but concretized, being made aware of the differences and just how consequential that awareness is.

The thoughts that haven't left me since seeing this film relate to interactions between the sexes, or should I say between ideas of feminine and masculine. A popular idea in film and elsewhere is that boys don't like girls until they become 'interested' in them. The story goes that they would rather hang out with the boys playing soccer than sitting around chatting with the girls. See what I did there? I insinuated that boys like to play and girls like to chat. That's what we often see in films. I often wonder if it isn't a myth that is being bandied about. In my elementary school they gave 1/2 the schoolyard to the girls and 1/2 to the boys. We couldn't cross the line. I remember being so pissed off about that. I was that little 8 year old telling off the teachers, calling them on their ignorance and unfairness. They claimed it was to protect the girls. I like to think my bitching had something to do with (it but probably didn't) but the next year they re-organized the halves. This time is was kinder garden to grade 3 on one side and grades 4-6 on the other. For some reason that sat well with me. If the adults felt the need to "protect" somebody, then let that be based on age more than sex. It shut me up.

The point is that we learn this kind of stuff at such a young age that I seriously doubt there is anything 'natural' about 'boys being boys' and 'girls being girls'. I know some more modern adults with children swear that their sons preferred trucks and their daughters preferred dolls and that may very well be the case. But I've rarely seen exclusion; the boys might not want to play barbies, but they will play baseball, house and store. The girls might not like trucks, but they will not say no to soccer, Frisbee or badminton. I've rarely encountered a group of boys who don't want to include the girls in their game of soccer or baseball or whatever they were playing. I may be generalizing, but I certainly never encountered it in my young years. And when they do I'll bet it's because of pack mentality and they picked up from adults that playing with girls is for sissies or some stupid thing. You just need the one popular kid to think something stupid for everyone else to follow. The point is I've never or rarely seen it cash out in real life and yet we see it in film all the time. What's up with that? The older generation that grew up with that crap writing the scripts would be my guess. Also the fact that 98% of films that include children are about boys, groups of boys, chums, etc., and if there is a girl or girls they are objects of desire even at that young age.

Back to the film. Writer/Director Céline Sciamma takes a close look at what it means to be a boy and what it means to be a girl in a very specific context without being over handed about any of it. There is no point she is out to make. She isn't teaching us a lesson. She is showing us what it is like for one young pre-teen who has to figure out how to navigate the world of the sexes and figure out if a side needs to be taken. The film is more important in how it makes you think about the issue later. And it will make you think.

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