Alli Haapasalo’s sophomore feature, Girl Picture, premiered virtually at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Girl Picture is about three young teenagers navigating their lives. Mimmi (Aamu Milonoff) and Rönkkö (Eleonoora Kauhanen) are best friends who operate a smoothie stall together. The movie follows them through three consecutive Fridays. We watch as they figure out their sexuality, identity, and the prospects of their future. It’s an honest depiction of a coming-of-age story set in Finland and the differing perspectives of sex and relationships.
Girl Picture begins with Mimmi losing her temper over a teammate at the gym. She is the polar opposite of Rönkkö. Rönkkö, a good-natured, curly-haired girl, has intimacy issues. She struggles with male attraction and sexual desire. Mimmi advises her to keep pursuing sexual relationships and explore what she likes. Finally, there’s Emma (Linnea Leino), whose goal is to compete in the European Championship. Despite that lofty goal she wants to have a life like other normal teenagers. While at a party, Emma meets Mimmi. They begin a whirlwind romance which causes issues for Emma as she practices for the championship.
Real World Issues
Mimmi has abandonment issues. Mimmi and her mother used to be close, but she often forgets to invite her first child to celebratory dinners, which makes Mimmi upset. On the other hand, Rönkkö explores her sexuality and intimacy issues by attempting to sleep with men. Mimmi advises her to communicate what she wants during intimacy and Rönkkö experiments with a boy whom she met at a party. Rönkkö provides instructions, but her lover finds them “unsexy”. He leaves her in the bedroom, alone. Emma and Mimmi are infatuated. When Mimmi realizes that Emma is using her to rebel against her parents, she quickly ghosts her.
Haapasalo’s movie is a portrayal of cisgender feminine adolescent experience that focuses on many issues such as intimacy issues, exploring sexuality, and familial abandonment. White women who watch Girl Picture will feel as if their stories are being told. Black and Brown girls may not see themselves in the film. This is largely due to a cultural gap in the film.
Being a teenager is a complicated stage. Girls are trying to figure out who they want to be. They are trying out new clothes, meeting new people, and more. Compared to the coming-of-age stores from the ‘80s and ‘90s in Hollywood, the genre has evolved quite a bit. Mimmi and Rönkkö are best friends who are indifferent to each other, and they don’t abide by the cultural or social norms. None of the girls competes with one another, even around more popular kids.
In The End…
Girl Picture lacks a proper conclusion to all of the open arcs. This is in spite of efforts to wrap them all up. Rönkkö is left with unanswered questions about her sexuality. She has not figured out if she enjoys sex or whether she likes anyone. Mimmi and Emma had problems due to their chaotic relationship, and who knows if they are going to last. Even though Girl Picture’s exploration of teenagerdom, intimacy and queer identity are honest depictions of coming-of-age stories, some of the narratives feel unfinished. Mimmi hasn’t reconciled with her abandonment issues, and it manifested in a cruel way that hurt her relationship with Emma, regardless of whether they were able to reconcile.
Girl Picture is a sweet and enduring tale of three young women who experience the ups and downs of teenage life. They fall in love. Experiment with people. Explore how complicated sex can be when young. When Rönkkö, Mimmi and Emma are on screen every moment is purposeful. It is beyond refreshing to see their lives unfold before the audience’s eyes. To see the lessons that they learn along the way. There are scenes where the audience empathizes with their situation and that’s the kind of feeling one gets while watching Girl Picture.
For more of our Sundance coverage, check out our review of Summering here.
Nuha Hassan is a film and TV writer and reviewer, based in the Maldives. She is a Staff Writer at Film Cred, Off Colour, and Flip Screen. Apart from writing about film, she is a Video Editor at Dead Central. She studied Master of Media at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. Her love for film started with David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel. Her favourite comfort film is When Harry Met Sally.