The Diary of a Teenage Girl

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A teen artist living in 1970s San Francisco enters into an affair with her mother’s boyfriend.

I’m not usually bothered about going to the cinema alone. In fact, I’ve flown solo to see 4 films in the last fortnight. However, asking for a ticket for one to go and see ‘The Diary of a Teenage Girl’ left me feeling quite uneasy, despite me forcing conversation on the skeptical cashier to say that I’d heard good things about it.

The film is centred around 15 year old Minnie Goetze (23 year old Bel Powley, recently seen in ‘A Royal Night Out‘), and her sexual liberation – primarily at the hands of her middle aged stepfather, Monroe (Alexander Skarsgard on top form). The film itself has caused some controversy as a result of its ‘18’ certificate meaning it cannot be seen by the majority of its target audience – teenage girls – and with a storyline like that, not to mention the sex scenes, nudity and hard drug use, you can see why. Unlike other films with underage sex, this film does not automatically condemn it. Minnie instigates the relationship and, crucially, enjoys it. Bel Powley is excellent in the role, nailing down the angst and naivety of teenage romance and although we as viewers know that the relationship is wrong, we share in her excitement at the prospect of new experiences, and her pain as she is unknowingly used by Monroe.

Written and directed by newcomer Marielle Heller, this is an excellent portrayal of young, female, sexual liberation – something we don’t see on screen often (‘Blue is the Warmest Colour‘ being another recent example). The fact that we are told the story from Minnie’s perspective means we occasionally forget the paedophilic element of the plot as we warm to Monroe when Minnie does, and hate him when she does too. Heller does a wonderful job, incorporating a smart script with clever directing, and using animated sequences to great effect. I look forward to more from her.

An excellent indie, which deserves to be seen by a wider audience – although I would recommend male attendees bring a friend along!

Review by Richard Mason

Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Marielle Heller

Starring: Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgard, Kristen Wiig, Christopher Meloni, Austin Lyon and Margarita Levieva

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