Director.: Alexandra-Therese Keining
Cast: Tuva Jagell, Louise Nyvall, Wilma Holmen, Mandus Berg
106min | Sweden | Fantasy Drama.
GIRLS LOST is Swedish writer/director Alexandra-Therese Keining (Kiss Me) screen adaptation of Jessica Schliefauer’s prize-winning novel about three teenage girls who escape constant bullying at school courtesy of a magic drink. Keining uses slick ’80s retro styling and ‘CSI’ type computer graphics to portray the body-transfer scenes which are underpinned by a complex narrative exploring the true nature of sexual orientation.
In a macho school environment, three angst-ridden teenagers Kim (Jagell), Momo (Nyvall) and Bella (Holmen) cling together in a climate of sexual bullying from the boys, and a total lack of protection from their blasé teachers. One evening, Bella finds a mysterious seed that quickly sprouts a flower. After a night of fancy-dress partying (with masks straight out of Eyes Wide Shut), the trio imbibe the flower’s sap in a trance-like gender switching sequence where male actors take over their roles. Bella and Momo experience a boost of confidence when they morph back into their female identities during the daytime, but Kim is happier when she’s a boy. When the ‘male’ trio get invited to a football game Kim meets Tony (Berg), a tough guy from a nearby the estate. The two of them go on a burglary spree; Kim falling for Tony, whose harsh persona belies uncertainty about his own sexual orientation. Emboldened by the magic elixir, the girls seem better equipped to fight off male aggression at school: Kim is the only one addicted to the sap and Momo discovers her feelings for the male Kim, but the sap cannot last forever.
What starts as an adolescent-bonding movie soon develops into a serious discourse about the finer points of sexual orientation. Kim is much more at home in male body than a female one. At the same time, he is drawn to boys, and rejects the female Momo, who has fallen in love with his male identity. What looked like at first as semi-lesbian trio, turns out into something entirely different: The female Momo is clearly attracted to boys (but not the one of the macho-variety she encounters at school), Bella is extremely shy and reticent, and has yet to discover her sexual identity, whilst the male Kim is prone to the male violence his female Alter-Ego hated so much. A big question mark hangs over female Kim’s future.
Keining’s direction is faultless but her script and particularly her dialogue is often trite and over-didactic. That said, GIRLS LOST is a daring and original fantasy drama made watchable by the visual impact of Ragna Jorming’s stunning cinematography. AS
SCREENING DURING BFI FLARE 2016