Water Lilies

[B] Coming-of-age Drama

  • Written and directed by Céline Sciamma

water lilies

Full Disclosure: The Water Lillies reviewer DVD I screened cropped this 1.85:1 movie to a 4×3 frame, cutting off a quarter of the image. Even some of the subtitles were cropped. I have no way of knowing how much this hurt the film. Now, on with the review.

Us old folks need to be reminded from time to time just how bad this whole sex thing can be for a teenager. Your body keeps changing. Your peers look down on you if they think you’re a virgin, and (for a girl) if they think you’re not a virgin. Good looks are a license to be cruel to those around you. And if you actually do have sex with someone, neither of you know what you’re doing.

Céline Sciamma’s drama of three 15-year-old girls struggling with friendship, romance, and lust brings all those horrors back in gruesome emotional detail. Marie and Anne (Pauline Acquart and Louise Blachère) are best friends, with Marie cheering on Anne’s synchronized swimming team. But then Marie goes out of her way, and even humiliates herself, to befriend the beautiful but bitchy team captain Floriane (Adele Haenel). Anne has a major crush on Floriane’s boyfriend, complicating matters.

None of the characters behave in the way you’d expect them to–especially if your expectations come from other movies. Yet everything they do seems real and revealing. Sciamma wisely avoids big moments, going instead for a portrait of life as we all experience it, but that is different for each of us.

Water Lilies screened at the 2008 San Francisco International Film Festival.