Director: Alexandra-Therese Keining
Cast: Mandus Berg, Adam Dahlgren, Malin Eriksson
Watch Girls Lost online in the UK: Sky Cinema / NOW TV / FilmDoo / Curzon Home Cinema / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
“I think I like him so much because he doesn’t know who he is either.” That’s Kim (Tuva Jagell) in Girls Lost. She seems, perhaps, like your typical teen, hanging out with her friends, Bella (Wilma Holmén) and Momo (Louise Nyvall), bullied by classmates and generally feeling like an awkward outsider. But this is far from your typical coming-of-age drama.
Alexandra-Therese Keining’s film is a wonderfully curious beast, flitting between the supernatural and the super-hormonal angst with an ambiguous, almost dreamlike air. She doesn’t hold back on the nastiness of their day-to-day life, as our trio are chased down, harangued and tormented by horrible class jocks, who call them words like “whore”. Even when they cheer Momo on in a game of rounders, they do so cruelly, chanting the nickname “boobless” over and over again. “You’re in the situation too,” is all their useless teacher can offer. “You have take control of it.”
So take control is what they do, after a mysterious black plant appears in the garden one day, and, drawn in by its scent, they drink its nectar – only to wake up as boys instead of girls.
Gender-switching films are nothing new, but Girls Lost brings fresh new life to the body-swap genre. What might be treated as light comedy is mined instead for nuanced, intriguing drama, as the girls explore not only what their new bodies allow them to do, but also what they do to them as people. All of the young stars are incredible, with the friends immediately recognisable in their male form, despite looking completely different – and not just due to their similar glasses, clothes and hair colour.
Jagell’s Kim, though, emerges as the most interesting, as she grows and changes with every 24-hour trip. Her boy form sees her begin to smile, uncertainly, as she bonds with one of the boys in their class. Her male counterpart, meanwhile, rubs off on her female side, as she becomes more openly aggressive, willing to stand up to their bullies – much to the shock of the same teacher.
The problem Kim faces, though, is that the lead bully, Tony, is the same guy that she’s falling for – a conundrum that taps right into the movie’s complex heart. Countless questions are raised, without being spelled out. If she can only have a relationship with him as a boy, does that make her gay? And if he doesn’t recognise her as a girl, does that mean it’s not her that he has feelings for anyway?
She soon becomes more and more obsessed with filling up on the nectar, much to the others’ dismay – and as that cycle only leads to her being less satisfied with either part of herself, Therese Keining captures the unhappy confusion of growing up with both intimate terror and tremors of excitement. She has a keen sympathy for her characters’ pubescent concerns – a dilemma that’s elegantly mirrored by the fantastical premise, which turns this atmospheric genre piece into a study of the universal uncertainty of youth as well as an examination of gender roles and expectations. It’s like watching We Are the Best! remade as a horror movie. The film occasionally gets a little lost in its own tone and story, but that’s only too fitting for such a keenly felt meditation on sex and the transient nature of identity. There are fascinating depths to be found here.
Girls Lost is available on Sky Cinema. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW TV, as part of a £11.99 Sky Cinema Month Pass subscription – with a 7-day free trial.
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