“You’re not like other boys,” notes 10-year-old Mikael’s potential new girlfriend in this featherlight drama. She’s not wrong – Mikael is actually a 10-year-old girl called Laure (Zoé Héran), who pretends she’s a boy when she moves with her family to a new neighbourhood. She’s not bad at it either, convincing as a football-loving lad who’s just as gung-ho and mischievous as her comrades. The charade can’t last forever, though, and things get complicated when Laure’s younger sister Jeanne (Malonn Lévana) gets wind of what her sibling’s been up to.
Proving that even the most issues-oriented films don’t have to get bogged down by their weighty ideas, director Céline Sciamma handles Tomboy with the same lightness of touch as her feature debut Water Lilies. The French director’s delicate fingerprints are all over her sophomore feature film – Sciamma keeps the focus tight on Laure right from Tomboy’s opening shot, exploring notions of gender and identity from a child’s-eye-view and effectively putting a fresh spin on cross-dressing comedies (this ain’t no White Chicks).
Thanks to Sciamma’s thoughtful approach, it’s almost impossible to refer to Tomboy without using the words ‘sweet’ and ‘sensitive’. While we’re at it, we might as well throw ‘funny’ into the mix as well. Laure comes up with a playdough solution when she’s invited to go swimming, while Lévana almost eclipses Héran as the scene-stealing little sister who prances around in a ballerina costume (while Laure practices spitting in the bathroom sink) and makes the kind of hilarious observations that only a child could (“Mummy doesn’t work because she’s fat and ‘pre-nant’”).
There’s tough stuff going on too – not least when Laure’s mother discovers what her daughter has been up to. In its naturalistic framing and captivating young leads, Tomboy is nothing short of enchanting. 4/5
Via Out In The City