Girl Picture, 2022.
Directed by Alli Haapasalo.
Starring Aamu Milonoff, Eleonoora Kauhanen, Linnea Leino, Sonya Lindfors, Cécile Orblin, Oona Airola, and Mikko Kauppila.
Mimmi, Emma, and Rönkkö are girls at the cusp of womanhood, trying to draw their own contours. On three consecutive Fridays, two of them experience the earth moving effects of falling in love, while the third goes on a quest to find something she’s never experienced before: pleasure.
Finnish filmmaker Alli Haapasalo’s (Love and Fury, Force of Habit) third feature offers up a vibrant and evocative take on the seemingly typical teen-led romantic drama. While comparing it to Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart threatens to set the wrong expectations, this wonderfully acted romp is a more sly brand of crowd-pleaser on its own merits.
Mimmi (Aamu Milonoff) and Rönkkö (Eleonoora Kauhanen) are best pals who work together after school at a mall smoothie joint, while pining for a more exciting life and navigating the toils of young romance (or in Rönkkö’s case, perhaps just sex).
For the off-the-beaten-track, punky Mimmi, everything changes when she meets doggedly determined ice skater Emma (Linnea Leino), yet the pair must sift through their own distinct anxieties if love will triumph. Mimmi carries around familial baggage with her, while the more uptight Emma’s commitment to skating and ongoing crisis of confidence threatens to drive a terminal wedge.
Rönkkö is meanwhile chasing a more generally sensual experience; she hasn’t ever experienced an orgasm with a member of the opposite sex. Is it simply a case of never finding the right guy, or is there a bigger awakening afoot?
Like most worthwhile films about the existential brutality of the teenage experience, Girl Picture agrees to embrace the awkwardness of those formative years; the overwhelming and intoxicating feelings, those uneasy nascent sexual encounters, and in the case of Rönkkö the fragile egos of teenage boys. All of it, good and bad, is informative, and drives these three young women towards the adults they will surely become.
Much like Booksmart, there’s an undercurrent of sweetness to this matter-of-fact film, no mind that it periodically diverges into sidebars about semen and other things most films would only whisper in hushed tones. Mimmi and Emma’s romance, in all of its trying complexity, is especially endearing; it’s incredibly easy to root for them as a result. Perhaps near-unavoidably, Rönkkö’s sexual adventure doesn’t land with quite such impact.
Throughout, however, Haapasalo frames her tripartite character study as a paean to the things and people that make life better – though don’t strictly define your existence – and the breathless pursuit of them from hormonal youth upwards. “Love people, but be ready to call them on their shit,” seems to be the movie’s positive missive, of overcoming fear and uncertainty for yourself, but letting people into your heart too.
This could all risk feeling a tad trite without three strong performances to back it up, and thankfully Haapasalo certainly has that in Aamu Milonoff, Eleonoora Kauhanen, and Linnea Leino. Milonoff takes center-stage as the charmingly offbeat Mimmi, but the three girls are in all of their scenes together completely convincing as young women grappling with the mysteries of life while skirting on the cusp of adulthood.
Haapasalo’s filmmaking is also aesthetically appealing, employing a slender 4:3 screen ratio perhaps to exemplify the stifling, boxed-in potential of teen life – though there aren’t any fancy ratio-switching moments here. The drama is lensed in dreamy shallow focus for the most part, which foregrounds the three leads and their expressive faces in favour of most anything else.
Peppy, well-placed needle drops are included throughout and put to particularly intoxicating use in a few lovely, understated montages – especially an ice skating one in the third reel.
While little of this movie’s A-to-Z story will surprise you, and there are occasional lurches into pat melodrama territory, it more often than not captures the red-blooded thrill and pulse-quickening anxiety of teenage uncertainty. When the film is over, their development certainly isn’t, Haapasalo leaving the trio in flux and still very much finding themselves.
Girl Picture is a sweet yet refreshingly frank blast of coming-of-age female empowerment, authentically wrought by three compelling lead performances.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Shaun Munro – Follow me on Twitter for more film rambling.