GIRL PICTURE – Review by Jennifer Green

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This Finnish film, distributed Stateside by Strand Releasing, is a Lena Dunham’s Girls-like tale of three young women figuring themselves out through relationships and sex. It’s visually interesting and offers insight into young adulthood in Finland, but there’s not quite enough story here to sustain the entire film, letting its three promising actresses down. Still, the confusion, awkwardness, excitement and anxiety of growing up are on full display in the story’s span of three Fridays in three young women’s lives.

Smoothie shack co-workers Mimmi (Aamu Milonoff) and Ronkko (Elonoora Kauhanen) are best friends. Ronkko sticks up for the volatile Mimmi when she loses her temper at school and work. Mimmi, in turn, offers Ronkko advice about dating and sex. Ronkko is concerned she doesn’t enjoy sex, and she tries with pretty much any guy who crosses her path. Mimmi has abandonment and anger issues since her mom remarried and had a much younger child.

One day Mimmi meets Emma (Linnea Leino), a competitive ice skater, and the two fall in love. Accustomed to training year-round since she was five, Emma has never cut loose before, and Mimmi provides the opportunity. When Emma, frustrated with her tough coach and even tougher new routine, gets a taste of what she’s been missing, she impulsively quits skating the day before a major competition. Emma will have to take matters into her own hands to ensure her girlfriend doesn’t make the biggest mistake of her life.

Had Emma’s tale been the backbone of the narrative, or had Mimmi and Ronkko been given more backstory, this would have been a more engaging movie. The idea of a young woman who has never had a day of fun in her whole life, but does have a passion and a purpose – unlike her peers – is compelling. Leino plays Emma with a mixture of restrained energy and fragility, much like she describes the required characteristics of competitive skaters: “You have to be strong and sensitive at the same time.”

The other actresses also do a fine job embodying their characters, but they’re not given quite as much to work with. Mimmo’s relationship with her mom provides some motivation, but her actions are often very hard to comprehend or empathize with (as are her oddly bleached eyebrows). Maybe that’s the point – she’s figuring out how to control her own emotions – but she gets away with more than most people would in real life. Ronkko is the least developed character, and thus her obsession with sex (“I came to come!”) lands as overly scripted.

Much as we’d like to put young women in a post-feminist bubble, it doesn’t feel authentic to have them sitting around talking about their experiences “dry humping” or wanting “new dick.” At least give them other interests and topics to talk about as well. Again, Emma probably feels the most authentic precisely because she has genuine interests and original ideas, like when she takes offense at a comment commending “female athletes” – why not just consider women “athletes,” like men?

Co-scripters Ilona Ahti and Daniela Hakulinen incorporate these elements but aren’t fully successful at rounding out the story or the characters to make their journeys more believable. Tisch School-trained director Alli Haapsalo toys creatively with the use of color to match mood – romantic scenes are red and blue, for example, while a gloomy sequence is yellow-tinged. One club dance and make-out scene has lights flashing to the rhythm of the music. She also incorporates some great mood music, like punk song “Look Like That” by US-based artist Sneaks.

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Jennifer Green

Jennifer Green currently contributes to Common Sense Media and The Hollywood Reporter. She was Screen International's correspondent in Spain for ten years. She launched the newspaper column and website Films from Afar to curate international films available for home streaming. She has served on film festival juries across Spain and North Africa and teaches journalism and film to university students.