Sundance Review: Girl Picture
Girl Picture fits into a neat trend at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival – films that are far better than the titles affixed to them. This instance is especially tragic, as the original Finnish title – tytöt tytöt tytöt – translates to girls girls girls, a certainly superior title.
No matter, really, because the picture itself is superb.
Alli Haapasalo’s fractured-yet-weaving narratives of three girls coming of age across three consecutive Fridays combine into a perfectly messy portrait of young adulthood – it’s all about throwing splatter at the canvas, until suddenly Saturday morning arrives and you’re left to figure out what you’ve made.
Mimmi (Aamu Milonoff) and Rönkkö (Eleonoora Kauhanen) are best friends. Rönkkö is seeking a sexual satisfaction that has eluded her thus far. Mimmi finds something more intimate – but also more dangerous – in the typically rule-following Emma (Linnea Leino). The narrative arc of this bildungsroman is nothing new; it’s the small moments that twist and turn a familiar tale into something far more exhilarating. The way tense moments turn so quickly to adolescent eruptions at the smoothie shop where Mimmi and Rönkkö work. The shaded effervescence of a late-night, ice-less figure skating routine. The parade of boys that fade in and out of Rönkkö’s weekends in that specific way of youthful, amorphous acquaintances.
The trials and tribulations of these young women aren’t necessary to recap – it’s the way they all need something slightly different that matters, and how Girl Picture gives them each the space to figure it out and the shoulders to cry on when they can’t quite solve life’s riddles. The coup de grâce of Haapasalo and writers Ilona Ahti and Daniela Hakulinen is the way the film pirouettes almost flawlessly through its third act. Mimmi, Rönkkö, and Emma circle each other almost gravitationally, but each finds their own solace, their own answers. Neither is present for another’s climactic moment, but they find each other later. Girl Picture knows the people that matter aren’t the ones who are there for our important moments; they’re the people we call right after they happen.
The three young women all make an indelible mark on Girl Picture in early career performances. Kauhanen has the heavy lifting of a solo journey, and she wears the brash mix of boldness and fear proudly. Leino is best in unexpected moments of ecstasy – as though life has taught her this pleasure must be fleeting, so she better grab it and shake it and hold onto it for dear life. It’s Milonoff that impressed me most, though ask 30 people and you’d likely get an even split. The unique seesaw of self-destructiveness and painful vulnerability isn’t an easy one to pull off, but she does so in a magnetic performance that reminds me of Margot Robbie in I, Tonya – right down to the Harding-esque act of vindictive violence that opens the film.
Girl Picture is awaiting distribution. When it finds it, be sure to seek it out on the first Friday of its release – or at least the second or third.