Girl Picture


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Girl Picture
"The performances are all first class, with any one of the three leads capable of carrying a film on her own."

In a world which is constantly telling girls how to behave and who to be, Alli Haapasalo’s Sundance hit comes as a breath of fresh air. Later screened at Inside Out, it’s the story of three young women navigating the challenges of early adulthood, and it manages to combine a focus on sex and sexuality with an innate wholesomeness which makes it effortlessly endearing. These are lives lived naturally, setting aside the pressures and prejudices of the wider world, in a space where men are peripheral. They’re still fraught with problems, but, like Mariano Biasin’s Sublime, another of this year’s festival favourites, they provide a glimpse into a world of freedom.

Emma (Linnea Leino) is a figure skater in training, committed to the sort of regime which might not seem like freedom, but she’s doing something she genuinely loves and she seems to have good people around her. Facing a crisis of confidence after having failed a specific jump on which her career could depend, she’s in a low place when she meets Mimmi (Aanu Milonoff), and they immediately get on one another’s nerves, but even then, there’s an energy between them which makes it seem completely natural that they will fall into bed together the next time they meet. Haapasalo regularly tells us what day it is so that we can follow the development of their relationship over time, as each develops strong feelings for the other but Mimmi, whose ability to trust has been damaged by familial circumstances which she acknowledges are no-one’s fault, begins to panic about it and push at Emma’s boundaries.

In parallel to this, we follow Mimmi’s best friend Rönkkö (Eleonoora Kauhanen), who is struggling with the fact that she just doesn’t seem to experience the same sexual pleasure or passion which others talk about. She has no difficulty attracting the attention of young men she likes, and has been trying to have as much sex as possible in the hope of finding something which works, but this, along with her hopeless chat-up lines and attempts to follow Mimmi’s advice about articulating her desires, seems only to lead to disappointment. Could she be in need of something different? Could she be asexual? Although the situations in which she finds herself are frequently awkward, Haapasalo handles her journey with a delicate touch, alert to her precariousness as she strives to understand herself.

There’s a lot of pain in these stories, but also warmth and that particular kind of joy which stems from the discovery that one’s life skills are improving. Emma and Rönkkö gradually learn that not everything is as big a deal as they feared, whilst Mimmi learns the value of reining in her behaviour and paying more heed to the vulnerabilities of others. There’s a fair bit of humour, often at the characters’ expense – also an inescapable part of growing up. The performances are all first class, with any one of the three leads capable of carrying a film on her own. One imagines that, as their careers progress, this film will be sought out by fans keen to see what they were capable of achieving together. Such fans will not be disappointed.

Although it may not be covering new territory, Girl Picture has a freshness perhaps stemming from the fact that its characters are going through all this for the first time. It’s a delight from start to finish.

Reviewed on: 02 Jun 2022
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Mimmi, Emma and Rönkkö are girls at the cusp of womanhood, trying to draw their own contours. In 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.

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