Girlhood Film Review

The film, Girlhood, introduces the 16-year-old protagonist, Marieme (Karidja Touré). The young, timid, quiet teenager never belonged in a niche of her own. Being raised in the projects of a low socio-economic area in France, Marieme is the main caregiver for her younger sisters, as her mother (Binta Diop) works late long hours. Her brother plays the abusive father figure in the household, scowling his younger siblings for anything that arises. Marieme’s school life is far from pleasant. She has repeated the same grade for three years because her grades are really poor. This resulted her guidance counselor suggesting technical schools for her to commence in the trades sector for employment. Marieme storms off into the playing court where she encounters three girls: Lady (Assa Sylla), Adiatou (Lindsay Karamoh), and Fily (Mariétou Touré) (who become her new group). These free-spirited girls take her under their wing and ultimately transform her to a new person: New name, new appearance, new motives, and new attitude. The four adolescents search for freedom, to be liberated from their unfortunate upbringing in life (from shoplifting to wear better clothing, to interacting with boys who may not have the best interests for them). Marieme, being unsure of her identity, ultimately becomes an individual who is depicted as the other, being alienated from society and does not have a place she can call home.

The director of Girlhood, Céline Sciamma, excellently talks about the obstacles teenage girls go through growing up, one of them being the battle of being accepted. For example, in the beginning of the film where Marieme decides to join Lady, Adiatou, and Fily, she experiences alienation. These girls are outspoken, loud, and confident, all of which Marieme isn’t. When the girls are at the train station, there are another group of girls at the other side of the tracks bickering and talking poorly about them. Being as shameless as they are, Lady, Adiatou, and Fily start yelling and standing up for themselves. Marieme, experiencing being the other, does not participate and remains quiet in solitude. This demonstrates one of the obstacles of being a teenager, not being able to fit in and be accepted as one’s own.

Another challenge that arises from being an adolescent is the treatment of being a child and not taken seriously. This is shown through the scene where the girls go inside a high-end store to browse. The white employee asks Marieme if she needs any assistance but she says no. Being a young, black teenager, the employee immediately starts to follow her around the store to ensure nothing gets stolen. Lady then appears at the scene and asks the employee why she is following her and suddenly realizes it is because of her race. All the girls then storm off out of the store. This scene really projects intersectionality of age and race through the stereotypes that are thrown onto marginalized groups. This also relates to the White privilege: Unpacking The Invisible Knapsack article by Peggy McIntosh under the white privileges that states “5. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed” (McIntosh 1988). With this double standard at hand, Marieme and the other girls must go through the struggle of being young and black in a prominently white society in France.

The last obstacle in being a teenager is the search of independence and freedom. Marieme, Lady, Adiatou, and Fily are all on a quest into becoming their own, to be freed from poverty and misfortune. One example is when the girls shoplifted dresses and booked a room to hangout. This leads to them cranking up Rihanna’s Diamonds and dancing the night away. This scene really shows a moment where they felt liberated and free, a moment that they will cherish as this is only temporary for them. For individuals as young as them, it is difficult to be their own individual when they are still dependants in society. For some people, individuality arises either when one is independent, rebellious, or rejects societal norms. In the case of Marieme, Lady, Adiatou, and Fily, that stage in their lives is far from reality.

With all these obstacles at hand, the director does an excellent job in demonstrating them through the characters, making the film an excellent example of a world of a teenage girl. With all due respect, Girlhood lacks examples of other races within the film. It would have been ideal if the film focused more on the general issue of poverty than to target it to a specific race and culture. Taking this course presumes that only back people within that society experience poverty and the struggles of life. Also, it also insinuated and reemphasized the type of roles and projections of black people within society and in the film industry. Many films that have black characters are often assigned a role that degrades and belittles the race as a whole. Why is it that black people are often portrayed as poor, unstable, and struggling to survive? Why can’t there be more roles in which show these minorities being successful or the majority in society? These questions always come to mind when the stereotypes of black people are reinforced into films without acknowledgement.

Overall the film, Girlhood, is an excellent film that successfully projects the lives of individuals who aren’t as well off as others and captures what it is like to be a teenage girl within those parameters and circumstances. If one is intrigued about looking close up at black individuals in the predominantly well-known society of France, it is definitely worth ten dollars to sneak a peak.


McIntosh, Peggy. “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh.” White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh. 1 Jan. 1988. Web. 7 Feb. 2015. <;.


Girlhood Film Review

4 thoughts on “Girlhood Film Review

  1. Purple,
    Good review! I enjoyed reading it, and especially liked your connections. The connection between McIntosh’s “White Privilege” piece was very well done and tied in nicely with the theme of Girlhood. I also liked how you mentioned the intersection of age and race, as age is typically ignored in when one thinks about intersectionality.
    If I had one criticism, it would be to proofread. Your piece had excellent ideas and themes, but the lack of proofreading made it hard to read/follow. Try to read what you have written out-loud or pretend you are talking to an audience.


  2. Purple,
    Nice review! You had a very nice concise plot summery, touching on all the important points of the film. I also really enjoyed your connections to the themes we have been discussing in class. Nice job on breaking up the film into the different challenges met and delving into them!
    One point of constructive criticism would be to try dissect each challenge without describing an entire scene for each. Other than that, great review!


  3. Purple,
    You produced a really good review! The length of the summary was well adjusted, as you gave enough of the plot for a reader to understand the characters and film, but did not allow the summary to be the main focus of your review. You clearly demonstrated a good understanding of intersectionality, and discussed the overlapping themes of stereotyping, race, and age within the film. The highlight of the review for me was the reference to the Peggy McIntosh piece, and the way you connected it with Girlhood. I also noticed that even though you praised the film, you still provided a critical analysis of it, and called out the need for a focus on poverty in general and a lack of other races. One comment I would make would be to re-read your work before submitting and double checking it over for spelling and grammatical errors.


  4. Purple,
    This was a great review! I liked the way you discussed the various challenges of going through adolescence and how it is the main idea throughout the film. You did a great job also tying in a reading from class, White Privilege and comparing it to how it relates to the film, Girlhood. This review also had a balance of addressing the film’s strengths and weaknesses, which made it a great film review. Overall, I liked this review and the ideas you touched upon.


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