The Finnish film Girl Picture isn’t treading new ground, but it’s a sweet story about the ups and downs of female relationships.
(This review is part of our coverage of the 2022 Sundance Festival.
For as long as we can possibly remember, coming-of-age stories centered on the complex and glorious theme of girlhood have been gracing the big screen. Whether it’s The Virgin Suicides, Ghost World, Lady Bird, or Booksmart, Many of these stories have been told from the female lens and explore female friendship and the highs and lows of falling in love for the first time. The latest entry to this rewarding sub-genre is Alli Haapasalo’s Girl Picture, which marks the first time a Finnish feature will be in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition at Sundance.
The film centers on inseparable best friends Mimmi (Aamu Milonoff) and Rönkkö (Eleonoora Kauhanen), who are on the brink of entering adulthood. Told over the course of three consecutive Fridays, it closely follows the pair as they embark on their own journeys of falling in love and finding sexual pleasure, respectively.
Emma (Linnea Leino) is a professional figure skater who has dedicated her whole life to her career and is focused on making it to the European Championships. When she and Mimmi first encounter each other, they don’t quite hit it off immediately. But soon after, fate leads them to meeting again at a party and they end up spending the rest of the night living as carefree as possible, resulting in the blossoming of a sweet relationship. In Mimmi, Emma finds an independent and “rebellious” soul who opens her up to new experiences outside of the skating world she has confined herself to since childhood.
Rönkkö, on the other hand, is struggling to develop emotional connections or experience pleasure from her sexual partners. “I’m scared I’ll never feel what others feel,” she says at one point. Throughout the film, her string of experiences — whether it’s awkwardly flirting with a guy to the point she doesn’t realize she can’t stop talking or giving someone step-by-step guidance on how to perform a sexual act — led her to figure out who she is and what she truly desires.
Haapasalo, with the help of a witty screenplay from Ilona Ahti and Daniela Hakulinen, takes a formula we’ve seen dozens of times and yet manages to imbue a freshness to it. Girl Picture captures the most mundane and seemingly boring parts of life (which brings to mind the Norwegian series Skam), like going to school, and still makes it interesting. This works well because it never overstays its welcome, with the 83-minute runtime inviting us to take a look at these pivotal few days in the lives of three young women. Mimmi, Rönkkö, and Emma are allowed to make mistakes and live without having to feel the pressure of potential consequences; they’re given the liberty to simply learn along the way and come to their own conclusions based off of their individual experiences and not what society tells them is right or wrong.
Not only is Girl Picture a stunning and relatable look at romantic love, but it’s also a tender portrait of the impenetrable bond between best friends. Even though Mimmi and Rönkkö have their disagreements here and there (after all, no friendship is perfect), they’re always ultimately there for each other and have each other’s backs. And while Girl Picture revolves around love and sexuality, its heart and soul lies with its positive portrayal of the power of female friendship.
While Girl Picture isn’t an entirely brand new take on what it’s like to be a young woman on the cusp of womanhood, its familiar traits work in favor to make for a relatable and enjoyable slice of life watch. One thing’s for sure: Girl Picture is another coming-of-age story that deserves as much appreciation as its predecessors.