Alli Haapasalo’s Finnish film is an honest and refreshing look at young adulthood and sexuality.
Girl Picture, a Finnish film written and directed by Alli Haapasalo, follows the story of three teenage girls, Emma, Mimmi, and Rönkkö, on three consecutive Fridays. The proceeding journey evokes feelings of curiosity and excitement, as all three girls begin to feel interest in finding love and sexual awakening. Mimmi and Emma spark a romantic connection as Rönkkö seeks casual pleasure. However, as life begins to get more complicated for all three girls, they must face themselves with a level of self-honesty none of them are used to. What follows is an honest and heartfelt look at young adulthood, love, and sexuality.
While the entire film gives off a feeling reminiscent of a warm cup of coffee on a dreary day, its greatest strength is its screenplay. Written by screenwriters Daniela Hakulinen and Ilona Ahti, the story line is paced just right, with a sense of honesty and depth ever apparent. While the topic of sexuality, particularly among women, is becoming slightly less taboo of a topic than in decades prior, this film addresses the matter with a level of reverence and truthfulness that separates it from other works that add to the conversation in the best way. It is not seeking shock value or smut, but it also isn’t conservative. Throughout the film, Rönkkö finds herself in multiple situations in which she is faced with intimacy, and she cannot seem to figure out why she is not experiencing as much pleasure as she thinks she should be. It isn’t until the end, when she declares to her budding love interest that she is not sure she enjoys sex at all, with a level of confidence and contentment, that a moment of epiphany happens – one that is incredibly satisfying from an audience standpoint. Asexuality is so underrepresented in film, and this movie handles it beautifully.
The performances in this film are also strong. Elonoora Kauhanen gives a lively performance as Rönkkö, perfectly capturing the essence of young womanhood with a layer of vulnerability. Aamu Milonoff’s spirited portrayal of Mimmi is also a standout, and she handles Mimmi’s additional story lines of dealing with generational trauma and complicated family relationships with a spirit that is explosive yet raw. She serves as the link between Rönkkö and Emma, as Rönkkö’s best friend and Emma’s love interest. A scene in which she breaks down in front of her mother and explains why she grew distant from her is a standout moment in the film. Linnea Leino rounds out the trio as Emma, with a level of quiet intensity and culpability that balances out the more erratic Mimmi. All three women bring something different to the table with their characters, but the story lines and motivations of each character blend seamlessly through each other.
In a statement, Haapasalo said, “One of the film’s many themes, the one that became most important for me, is the understatedly radical freedom of these girls. Mimmi, Emma and Rönkkö get to explore the identities and sexuality on their own terms, without any outside threats. They are not punished for desiring. They don’t end up in danger. They don’t get warned, belittled, shamed, or patronised. In that sense, this is perhaps more a film about the world we aspire for, than the world we live in.” Haapasalo does not just succeed in her desire to make that theme apparent in the film, she offers maybe the best contribution to the conversation.
Should Be Considered: Best International Feature
Where to Watch: In Select Theaters; PVOD
Lives in NC, where she is on a first name basis with the owners of her favorite pho spot.
Favorite Actress: Angela Bassett