Read our interview with the film's director, Marielle Heller, here.
Many films have made successful attempts to capture the 1970s in all their radical glory, but Marielle Heller’s coming-of-age saga The Diary of a Teenage Girl delivers a snapshot of the darker side of the decade with astonishing depth and sensitivity.
The Diary of a Teenage Girl: Phoebe Gloeckner graphic novel
Based on the eponymous graphic novel by Phoebe Gloeckner, The Diary of a Teenage Girl is an uncensored 1970s teenager’s deeply personal account of an affair with her mother’s older boyfriend. Newcomer Bel Powley plays Minnie, a wide-eyed, oft precocious teenager looking at the radically changing world of the 1970s through freshly adulterated eyes.
The Diary of a Teenage Girl synopsis
The film opens with Minnie swinging flared ankles on her bed as she candidly meditates on her newfound sexuality, recording each experience on a tape-recorder hidden under her bed, and Heller cleverly interweaves the narrative with original animation from Gloeckner's novel.
Winner at The Sundance Festival 2015
The only male figure in Minnie's life is her mother's thirty-something boyfriend Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård), who observes her innocent flirtations with inappropriate intrigue, and enters into a relationship that's more than a little coercive.
What follows is an intensely harrowing yet ultimately liberating picture from a perspective that history has rarely captured. Bel Powley is flawless as the wide-eyed if precocious teenager; in Alexander Skarsgård we see the pitiable vanities of a man clinging to boyhood. Kristen Wiig plays Minnie’s glamorous and exuberantly liberal mother, torn between maternal affection and the threat of her daughter's burgeoning sexuality.
Review: The Diary of a Teenage girl film: coming of age gem
It’s difficult watching, not least because Powley so successfully embodies the fifteen-year old she’s playing – wherein lies the film’s brilliance. The audience are granted a window into the uncensored life of a teenage girl: we observe her developing both physically and emotionally, and whilst the film is frequently explicit, it never lapses into the voyeuristic. Extreme encounters leave Minnie filled with heart-rending and unwarranted self-reproach.
A comedy drama film with substance
Heller's film is also incredibly funny, from the humourless, overly-involved stepfather Pascal, played in dry earnest by Christopher Meloni, to the doe-eyed Abigail Wait as Minnie's sister Gretel, solemn beyond her years. The supporting cast provide brilliant comic relief, and one of Heller's triumphs is the ability to render Minnie's affairs as both heart-breaking and exuberant, showing that formative experience can invariably be traumatic, but ultimately leaving us with an message of hope. The audience are left torn between exasperation and an urge to protect Minnie from these traumas whilst observing how she grows as a result.
The Diary of a Teenage Girl unshackles the sexualised teenage girl from society’s reproach and victim blaming: in an age when the notion of consent is becoming increasingly prevalent in public discourse, it’s refreshing to see something delivered without judgement or condemnation: cataclysmic, often harrowing, but never lapsing into excessive moralising, or indeed melodrama.
Stunningly honest and endlessly contemporary, Heller's is an important film that, provocative without judgement, will warrant discussion on changing notions of consent, and ultimately ask what it means to be a woman.
Click here to watch The Diary of a Teenage Girl trailer, 2015.
|What||Diary of a Teenage Girl Review: 2015 movie with Kristin Wiig and Alexander Skarsgård|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
07 Aug 15 – 30 Sep 15, 12:00 PM – 12:00 AM
|Price||£ determined by cinema|
|Website||Click here to go to the The Diary of a Teenage Girl IMDB page|