FILM: Tomboy Review (***)

Posted: November 19, 2011 in Film, Reviews
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Tomboy opens with a 10-year old child standing through the car roof window smiling against the wind like a dog in heaven. We meet our protagonist’s family — one of normalcy supported by love. There are jokes at the dinner table, sibling horseplay, and words of comfort as they adjust to life in a new neighborhood. The only thing peculiar is our protagonist, a child with questionable gender. The film’s title gives that secret away, but to the viewer (and to her family), the detail certainly doesn’t appear to matter. She wears boy clothes and sports a boy haircut, but she’s just a child like any other — naive and innocent, trying to figure out an identity. But it is in this confusion that our protagonist tells her first white lie. What’s your name? one of the children in the community asks. Mikael, she answers.

As with most lies, few ever remain undiscovered. But for the moment, we are with Mikael — falling in love with his quiet, soft nature. At home, Mikael is a tender older sister and a non-rebellious daughter. Outside of the home, Mikael is different and mysterious enough to attract the attention of the group’s leader, Lisa. But the tragedy is knowing —  though Mikael may be in denial — that the lie must be short-lived. There is an impending doom that covers the entire film, the doom of “getting found out.” Gender issues may not affect us all, but fitting-in because of or in spite of our identity is a constant, common struggle. And that’s where we fall more deeply in love with Mikael. He is us, and we are him

Tomboy is a beautiful film dominated by three perfectly-executed child performances, a prepubescent Boys Don’t Cry without all the death and rape and Hillary Swank. It’s certainly quieter as most European dramas tend to be. But take a chance. Falling in love with Zoe Heran’s Mikael is certainly worth it. Even if he’s only a mirage.


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