The Diary of a Teenage Girl DVD Review


   During the early 2000s, American cinema was responsible for a disproportionate amount of films focusing exclusively on teenagers losing their virginity. These movies, largely brash and comedic, more often than not steered clear of the complex emotions which come with such an occasion and, instead, were often little more than celebratory hi-jinx tales of young males "becoming men". Getting to "home base" with a member of the opposite sex formed part of a check-list for entering adulthood and also included getting drunk and smoking doobies - indeed,the female partners in these films were often little more than things to "score" with.

   The Diary of a Teenage Girl, then, is something of a welcome antidote to these low-brow, at times knuckle-dragging teen movies. This is an emotionally vivid, morally complex and, ultimately, thought provoking movie which blends aspects of Andrea Arnold's Fish Tank and Terry Zwigoff's Ghost World to winning effect.

    Bel Powely stars a 15 year-old Minnie; she euphorically announces to us, via her audio diary, how she has just had sex for the first time. Her partner on this occasion wasn't anybody as unsuitable as the bad-boy from the school football team or the goth-artist with a poetic soul. Instead, and much more inappropriately, Minnie has a relationship with her mother's boyfriend Monroe (Alexander SkarsgĂ„rd). Their on-going "romance", which director Marielle Heller neatly compares to the Patty Hearst/Symbionese Liberation Army situation, inspires both horror and empathy for Minnie from the audience - her tale is laid out sympathetically and non-judgmentally even as we judder at the fall-out.


   Heller's movie is astonishingly frank, occasionally graphic and, crucially, always honest. Despite what those kids in American Pie will tell you, coming-of-age isn't always a party. We see Minnie mistake exploitation for love and hear as she mutters sentences which can only sincerely be formulated in the confused mind of a teenage girl: "What's the point of living if no one loves you?" Over Minnie's journey, we see her looking for the love which she believes will validate her existence and finding it in the place she least expects it. Spoiler: happiness is not to be found in the arms of a jock with a heart of gold or, for that matter, any cute boy from her school.

   A sincere and impressive piece of candour, The Diary of a Teenage Girl is a smart and winsome entry into the classic teen movie canon. Outstanding attention to detail for the 1970s period setting, an engaging cast, and lively direction all multiply the impressiveness of an incredibly nuanced and powerful tale. Highly recommended for teenagers looking to understand the uncertainties of their lives, and for adults to reflect upon their youth in a close-to-the-bone manner.
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