I have to, do you understand? During the recent increase in support of the Transgender Rights Movement, the French film Tomboy was released in Only one year before the movie came out, France emerged as the first country to declare that Transgenderism is not a mental illness. In the year following the film, the French senate voted to prohibit discrimination specifically against those who identify as transgender. I believe that the timing played a large role in not only the creation of the film, but also with its success. Tomboy is an artistic and heartfelt film about Mikael, a transgender boy, and his summer experience exploring his gender identity in his new community. The film begins with Mikael and his family settling into their new apartment. Mikael explores his gender identity by participating in stereotypically male activities such as sports and getting into a physical fight while among the local children.
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Is there some hypocritical comfort to be derived from knowing a lady film-maker shot the scenes depicting a naked year-old? This, to be fair, allows the film to come into its own. Tomboy is never better than when it displays a keen awareness of audience expectations.
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Whereas Water Lilies focused on the lives of teenage girls, this time around she introduces us to the year-old Laure, who, with her crop haircut and grey sleeveless shirt, could easily pass as a boy in most contexts. Without yet having any friends in the neighborhood, she runs into Lisa Jeanne Disson , who understandably mistakes her for a boy. When we see Laure at home, Fournier presents us with a high-contrast, warmly-dimmed light and a camera that often keeps its distance so as to display the intimate family moments from afar. However, as warm and safe as the photography portrays the environment, something is missing for Laure to feel truly at ease with herself. These moments arrive when she is Mikael, the new boy in town playing football outdoors and swimming in a lake with his newfound friends.
You also might not think it mattered. The short hair gives nothing away, and neither does the image of this sprite standing up in a car sunroof, face in the wind under the light-dappled trees. However, the title is inescapable: It greets you before you have even started watching the movie, more or less setting you on a narrative path. The title suggests that the child is a girl, one who dresses in plain shirts, shorts and sneakers without a touch of pink or a Hello Kitty backpack. Does that make her a tomboy? Does her haircut, the hint of a swagger, the curl of a lip or how we read these directorial choices?