Girlhood is about growing up in the housing projects on the outskirts of Paris. Our protagonist Marieme realises that meekness is getting her nowhere in her family life or at school. After dropping out, she reinvents herself with a new name and new friends. ‘Vic’ has to navigate her way around a male-dominated maze of those who wish to dominate her. She must cultivate a diamond-hard exterior to get what she wants.
The cinematography is very clever, and turns a lot of standard shots on their head. There’s the passive, eroticized curve of her boyfriend’s butt, and feminine beauty routines are made grotesque via super closeup views of mascara clumps and sticky lip gloss. This story about female identity is at times hilarious and often moving. Most people could relate to the paradoxical pressure Marieme faces to be tough yet sweet, innocent yet responsible.