Céline Sciamma directs Karidja Touré, Assa Sylla and Lindsay Karamoh in this French teen drama about an estate girl who joins a gang when her options and prospects narrow.
I know I’m going to have to rescind my Letterboxd membership for saying this but I found this facile and meh. White middle class tourism through issues and emotions that don’t just need unsolicited justification and unwarranted celebration from the voices latching on. Marieme is a sweet faced but dull kid who becomes a bully and rejects a job. Sure, cleaning ain’t anyone’s chosen career, it certainly ain’t a middle class dream job in the arts or finance. But then she should’ve worked harder on her grades if she wanted to chase that distant carrot. Loads of kids from these backgrounds do, some even beat the odds of rigged game privilege and succeed. And that abandoning of the limited path offered to her is treated like an act of defiance that should be celebrated… and her only option as a failed citizen?! Yet unlike, say, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning or Fish Tank, there’s no sophistication or intelligence or emotional texture to this angry voice. There’s barely a voice. Marieme stays silent and stoic throughout and I suspect that’s due to a lack of confidence on Sciamma’s part. If her avatar was to make a definitive statement it might betray the lack of integrity inherent in the project. Words and declarations would reveal the inauthenticity and discomfort way too blatantly. And unlike say The Warriors or This Is England we don’t even share any illicit, exploitative thrill of the tribalism of gang life. We can’t have our cake, we can’t eat it. A black working class voice should have been given this budget and opportunity. Because it doesn’t ring true beyond a tabloid understanding of the issue and broadsheet handwringing about the problem. I grew up with kids like this of all colours, intelligence and ambitions. I can promise you you wouldn’t want to be on a metro carriage with them when they brandish their knives and act obnoxious. La Haine took a gamble and managed to paint its angry young faces as real, complex, relatable humans. This is only interested in lip service tragedy. Fairy tale gangsterism. Instagram politics, surface level proselytising. The Rihanna sequence and the scrubland fights are high points. Sciamma is good at making you feel the feels and her visual handwriting is always impeccable. Otherwise this is too basic to really be anything more than a feature length awayday for soft people who will never be in this trap but want to act oppressed and put-upon anyway.
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