Girls Lost is an earnest, thoughtful piece of magical realism from Swedish director Alexandra-Therese Keining.
It begins as a pretty typical tale of teen outsiderdom. Kim, Bella and Momo are three adolescent girls who are ostracised from most of their peers at school. When they bury a mysterious bean, a plant grows with the power to transform them temporarily into boys. While there are novelties and freedoms to be found in their new identities, schisms develop within the group as Kim starts spending more time with their former bullies, even embarking on a sexually ambiguous romance with one wayward boy.
“a unique spin on the complexities of teenage identity crises”
2016 has already seen one excellent example of the body-swap genre in Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name. While Keining hasn’t the budget or the pedigree to match Shinkai’s record-breaking, ambitious animation, Girls Lost seeks to make its mark through incisive character exploration and thematic intrigue. Ideas such as transgenderism and sexual orientation are treated with sensitivity, and the film as a whole is more concerned with asking questions than conjuring answers. The dialogue in places can be heavy-handed, perhaps due to the translation. Girls Lost’s most impressive sequences are wordless; at times it can be powerfully imagistic and the tone (dark, mysterious, unsettled) is maintained effectively throughout.
The coming-of-age genre is pretty saturated, and Keining’s film is far from the pinnacle. It is, however, an intelligent, purposeful effort that puts a unique spin on the complexities of teenage identity crises.
Girls Lost is out on DVD and On Demand this week.
Image: Alexandra-Therese Keining