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QFest movie review for "Tomboy"

Bridget O'Loughlin

I guess I have to update my bio and say that I made it to the big 4-0 and am still a gold star lesbian! I am serious, really. I am still a smoking, drinking, softball playing writer, who has to be a parole officer by day to pay the bills until I am discovered and become the lesbian David Sedaris or the lesbian Candance Bushnell or the lesbian Sandra Bernhard....oh, right, she is a lesbian...anyway. It has been quite an adventure getting to the end of my first project of 365 stories written in 365 days on While I have jumped out of a plane and did a little (teeny tiny bit) of performing, I still have a shit ton of stuff to do on my list and 2012 might just be the year for it, including writing this damn book I promised myself to write. ooooh, I said it out loud to you, now I really have to do it. As always, if's faithful have anything for me to check out, I will try anything (at this point, not even within reason) once.
posted by Bridget O'Loughlin on Jul 13, 2011 23:30pm | comments


"Tomboy" is a French subtitled film about the boldness of a ten year old girl's exploration of her gender identity.  Ten year old Laure, her six year old sister, Jeanne, and parents move to a new home in a Parisian suburb. You are immediately introduced to the tomboy while she is getting a driving lesson from her father.  The bond between Laure and her father is deep and he seems to be one of her greatest supporters throughout the film.  The film immediately establishes the perfect family and also a gender separation.  There are numerous scenes, in the beginning, establishing her six year old sister as the "feminine" sister bonded to her mother and boyish Laure relating to her father.  After the family dynamic is established, it is time for Laure to venture out into her new world that she eyes jealously from the balcony of their new apartment.

By the time she gets outside to try and play with the local boys, they are gone and it is only a neighbor, Lisa, sitting on her steps.  Lisa forges the relationship and the story immediately hits a turning point when Laure decides to tell Lisa that her name is "Mikael".  She has started out in her new town as a boy and while they are young, the chemistry is already there between the two young actresses.  Lisa agrees to take Mikael to where the boys play and the newly created Mikael is accepted into the group.  The scenes between Lisa and Mikael are sweet and easy.

Laure returns home and we are met with her relationship with her six year old sister, Jeanne, who is wise beyond her years and gives a performance that you rarely see from an actress of her age.  She really steals a lot of the movie with her effortless, hilarious acting.  The relationship between the sisters is a bond that is palpable on the screen. 

Laure, after her first day as a boy, seems to transition into her new role as a boy with her new friends and possible girlfriend.  The actress, Zoe Heran, who plays Laure/Mikael shows you every emotion that she is feeling with her face but in particular with her body language.  She exudes the awkwardness of her preteen body but also the awkwardness of a girl trying to be a boy.  When the boys are playing a game of shirts and skins soccer, she stands with shuffling feet to the side as a spectator.  You can tell that she is not participating for fear of having to possibly take off her shirt in public.  She is not developed physically at all in a way that would indicate that she is a female, but she hasn't transitioned fully mentally to feel that she can be a "full boy".  Later that night, in the bathroom, she examines her naked chest and back in the mirror and practices spitting like the boys did that day.  She is now ready to fully jump into her new role, which she does the next day, running around shirtless and actually playing soccer with the boys. 

The bond between Lisa and Mikael advances and there is a sweet scene where Lisa drops by the apartment without warning.  Mikael can't let her in as that would give away to her family what she has been up to when she leaves the house.  You know that there "relationship" is going to advance even further because of the looks exchanged between Lisa and Mikael.  You just know that this will not end well.

In between living her life as Mikael each summer day outside of her house, the relationship between Laure and her sister Jeanne is explored each day that she stays in to look after her little sister, as their very pregnant mother is laid up on bed rest.  The screenwriter of this film is a genius and has written a clever, hilarious, smart, touching script that is perfectly brought to life, especially between the two of them.  I can't say enough about the performance of Jeanne.  The dynamic between them is explored and we are showed time and time again that they couldn't be more opposite of each other but their relationship is solid and loving.

The story meets another twist when Lisa agains visits the house but the only one there is little Jeanne.  Lisa asks for Mikael and the six year old covers for her effortlessly.  She uses that to her advantage later when she pretty much blackmails Laure into taking her with her on her daily adventures with her friends.  She will do anything to hang out with her big sister and seems to enjoy her newfound freedom out in the world with the other kids.

Laure's relationship with Lisa and the boys are her daily life and it is perfect until the question of being registered for school comes to light.  Lisa noticed that Mikael's name was not on the register and Laure quickly says that she just must not be registered yet.  They have moved into their new home on summer break and none of her pretending to be a boy has been an issue until now.  Laure's face shows all of the emotion and confusion of figuring out how to continue her new life as Mikael.

Everything comes to a head when one of the parents of the boy that Mikael beat up earlier that day comes by the house with her son to talk to Mikael's parents.  It is then that her mother finds out what she has been doing all summer.  Mikael apologizes to the boy but it is then that her world turns upside down.  I don't want to tell you everything that happens because I really want you to see this film.

"Tomboy" is superbly written.  It is funny, sweet, painful and endearing.  There was not one performance in this movie that was not perfect.  In the QFest guide, it is described as "one of the best films in the festival" and I could not agree more.  In addition, it was preceded by the short, "Loop Planes", which also explored gender identity.  The writing and performances in the short were amazing.  I heard it said by movie goers, that is should be made into a feature length film.

"Tomboy" is being played again on Saturday, July 16th at 2:30 at Ritz at the Bourse.  I am telling you, you must make time in your day on Saturday, you will not be disappointed.

NOTE: Opinions are those of the author, and not necessarily those of or of any organization or business that the author is assosciated with.

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