One danger of watching too many movies is that you can become a spoiled little brat. It’s easy to become jaded about what makes an individual picture special when you’ve seen dozens of equally great movies just like it, to the point where you overvalue novelty & surprise instead of emotional resonance & dramatic truth. Girl Picture is a thoroughly lovely teen-girls-at-the-edge-of-adulthood drama, chronicling the messy lives & loves of three Finnish high schoolers who are figuring themselves out before they get locked into the braindead rituals of adult responsibilities. It’s thorny, sweet, well observed, and swooningly romantic in all the exact ways you’d want a coming-of-age drama to be. And yet, I found myself comparing it against a long line of already-established modern classics that have delivered exactly what it offers, titles like Water Lilies, Girlhood, Princess Cyd, Babyteeth; etc. That’s great company to be in, no matter where Girl Picture ultimately fits in that hierarchy, but I also can’t help but search for the few dramatic details & stylistic nuances that help it stand out in that crowded field. The easiest solution would’ve been to, you know, just watch fewer movies to begin with.
I can really only think of two aspects of Girl Picture that distinguish it from the rest of its high-style, coming-of-age sorority. The most obvious distinguishing factor is its setting, with trades in the genre’s typical American summer backdrop for a harsh Finnish winter. The less obvious, less easily definable distinction is the film’s matter-of-fact approach to sex. I’m not used to watching teens order drinks at a sweaty dance club, then doing vigorous Hand Stuff as a nightcap. Girl Picture is very nonchalant about sex, centering its two main BFF’s paths to sexual self-discovery – one learning how to advocate for her pleasure with boys in bed, the other learning how to let girls into her heart instead of just into her sheets. There isn’t much drama to the story beyond to those two bedroom crises, and its sexual frankness also sometimes plays as deliberately rattling, at one point harshly cutting from a cliche shot of a teen’s hand soaring through the wind outside a car window to that same hand doing something much more vulgar between a fellow teen’s legs. It’s not at all played for shock value, though. If anything, these youngsters are extremely polite fuckers; they always ask for verbal consent before indulging their bodies, which at least feels unique to this generation of kids even if it’s not unique to this specific picture.
Ultimately, novelty doesn’t make or break a movie like this. These dramas are hinged on the personalities of the girls they profile, and Rönkkö, Mimmi, and (Mimmi’s love interest) Emma are all lovely to spend 100 minutes with. It’s a relatively low-stakes winter, with only so many mistakes that can be made between house parties, gym class, and afterschool jobs at the mall. When one girl swoons as if she’s met the love of her life, it cuts to the other playing laser tag with strangers in the woods. It’s all sweetly innocent, even when it’s raunchy or heart-soaringly romantic. Director Alli Haapasalo finds plenty room to flex her sense of visual style in this feature debut, too, even if it’s all decorated in the same neon crosslighting, strobelit dance parties, and pastel bedroom decor that’s typical to the genre. No matter how familiar Girl Picture can feel frame by frame, it’s always a pleasure, and it’s headlined by a lovely group of kids who deserve the absolute best. Rooting for these girls to get their acts together before life throws real consequences at them is more than enough to make this a satisfying teen-years drama. Just try your best to forget that you’ve seen it all done before many times over.
One thought on “Girl Picture (2022)”
Pingback: #52FilmsByWomen 2022 Ranked & Reviewed | Swampflix