Girl (II) (2018)

R   |    |  Drama


Girl (2018) Poster

A promising teenage dancer enrolls at a prestigious ballet school while grappling with her gender dysphoria.


7.1/10
11,229

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6 September 2019 | Doctor_Mongoose
7
| A poignant tale of a young transgender woman that could have benefited from a broader scope.
It is difficult to review this film without referring to the performance and casting of Victor Polster as the Girl the title refers to. Both appear to be quite polarising. There seem to be many reviewers who feel his portrayal was brave, emotive and mature as an adolescent ballet dancer going through a transitionary period in her life in more ways than one: moving to a new school and meeting new people, moving to a different apartment, and, of course, the crux of the film, taking the next step in confirming her gender identity by taking hormones with a view to having gender reassignment surgery in the future. There also appear to be many people, mostly people who identify as either transgender themselves or part of the wider LGBT+ community, who think that the performance and casting is offensive and lacks the nuance that only a real-life transgender actor could bring to the role. Personally, I cannot believe I watched the same film as anyone who thinks that his performance was anything less than exceptional.

Ballet as an art-form creates beauty out of pain, patience and practice, and Lara's journey to become a better dancer runs in parallel with her journey to physically become the woman she believes she is. The routine physical exhaustion and bleeding toes she experiences whilst dancing provide a visceral contrast with the emotional challenges of day-to-day living she has to face, such as showering or going to the toilet, whilst living in a body that just doesn't fit. Victor Polster manages to convey these experiences and emotions, showing an intense determination and underlying vulnerability that never spills over into melodrama. The question of whether or not he should have been cast in the role in the first place is moot as it is evident that he was up to the task. Morally I do not see any reason why a non-trans actor cannot play a trans role if they have the ability to do so, in the same way that an actor does not need to have kids to play the role of a father or mother. I believe that he got the role on merit, in the same way that Daniela Vega got the lead role in A Fantastic Woman, because they were the best person for the job.

Where the film falls slightly flat, however, is that there are no other fully fleshed out characters apart from Lara, and although the film focuses around Lara's pain and experiences in the here and now, there isn't always a clear motivation for her actions. It isn't even clear why she is so keen on becoming a dancer in the first place. I'd like to have seen more of the father and younger brother and how their lives were affected by Lara's situation.

Ultimately it is a painful portrait of a young woman fighting to be who she wants to be that could have benefited from widening the scope and delving into the lives of other characters more in order to give more weight to the situations Lara found herself in. I also feel that the ending, although earned and wincingly effective from an emotional standpoint, didn't provide much closure and left the film feeling unresolved. Having said that, I have a suspicion that this was intentional as stories such as these do not have a cut-off point where the transformation is complete and the only resolution is the acceptance that there is none and that the fight must go on.

Definitely would recommend it.

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