Film and TV

DVDs & Blu-rays: Tomboy is a Different Type of Coming of Age Story

Tomboy stars Sophie Cattani, Zoé Heran, and Jeanen Disson; Céline Sciamma directs.

French writer/director Céline Sciamma and child actor Zoé Heran lift Tomboy from being just another coming of age story (admittedly with a twist) to being a breathtakingly beautiful examination of childhood, gender and identity. Heran plays the boyish ten-year-old Laure. When her family moves to a new neighborhood, Laure impulsively introduces herself as the male Mikael to a group of boys. Her new friends accept her without question and soon, she's playing soccer with them (like them, she plays shirtless), going swimming (a few snips of the scissors turn her girl's bathing suit into an approximation of boy's trunks) and has attracted the romantic attention of a girl (Lisa played by Jeanne Disson). It's an idyllic summer.

At first Laure's able to leave her Mikael persona at the door each time she goes home to her family (her parents are completely unaware of the situation; only her little sister knows what's going on). But as the days pass, Mikael is harder and harder to shake off.

Every day moves Laure and her friends closer to school. The boys dread the monotony of homework and exams; Laure dreads losing Mikael. The audience dreads the ending of the movie because we know reality will soon dismantle Mikael's happy world.

Some moments of the film are uncomfortable to watch. Sometimes the moment is almost too intimate (interactions between Mikael and Lisa); sometimes it's our own American rules about children and nudity (Mikael's friends might not think anything of his pulling off his shirt, but we know Mikael is actually a young girl and that we shouldn't be seeing her breasts - no matter how flat they are).

Sciamma's words and direction are lighthanded; Heran's performance is nuanced and unaffected. Together they make Tomboy a bittersweet delight.

Extras for the DVD version include a behind-the-scenes featurette and interview with the director. In French with English subtitles.

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Olivia Flores Alvarez