From the Archives: Celine Sciamma's Coming of Age Trilogy

As a critic and as an obsessive film lover, I'm always on the lookout for new talent both in front of and behind the camera. While the past decade or so has thrown up many great new filmmakers, for my money one of the most interesting is Celine Sciamma. With her first three films as a director and two screenplays, Being 17 and My Life as a Courgette, directed by André Téchiné and Claude Barras respectively, she has stuck resolutely to coming of age themes, but always found something fresh to say with each film.

In this series I'll be republishing some of my old reviews (with edits or additions where I feel they're needed) and I thought, with Sciamma's newest film - a step away from coming of age cinema - now finished, it would be a good time to look back at her remarkable first three films.

Water Lilies
There is something about the way that Europe does films about teenagers, perhaps it's a lack of that quintessentially American optimism, but Europe's teen movies seem to be gritter, more downbeat, and for my money more reflective of what being a teenager tends to be like. Celine Sciamma's debut is a good example, it's a low key story about 14 year old Marie (Pauline Acquart) and her crush on Floriane (Adele Haenel), the star of the local synchronised swimming team. It's a film about unrequited feelings, and about the confusion and pain they provoke.

Sciamma's screenplay is smartly written; intimate and realistic, unafraid to deal with the shallowness and petty cruelties of which teenagers are capable, especially in the way Marie shuts out her awkward friend Anne (Louise Blachere) - whose own crush on Floriane's sometime boyfriend complicates the relationships further. The centre of the film is the relationship between Floriane and Marie, and the clear imbalance in it. It's obvious that Floriane knows how Marie feels about her, perhaps to a greater degree than Marie does, and she uses it to her perceived advantage. In one very difficult scene Floriane asks a very intimate favor of Marie, so that she can have sex with her boyfriend without him knowing that it is her first time.

While the LGBTQ representation is important and clearly makes the film more personal to Sciamma, that's not to say other audiences won't identify. The film is about the dynamics of this relationship and Marie's first painful experience of being, or thinking that she's, in love and those things are not about gender. If this were an American film I suspect it would have ended with Floriane seeing the error of her ways, going to find Marie, declaring her love and kissing her in the middle of some dancefloor. There is indeed a dance floor scene here, but that's not what it's about. In one of the film's best scenes, the girls go to a club and Floriane drags Marie on to the dancefloor, dancing close, drawing her in, almost kissing her, before pulling away in a palpably painful moment. Water Lilies isn't a film about the endings we may have wished for ourselves when we were this age, it's more consistent and more true than that, and the ending Sciamma actually finds is perfect, if more ambiguous.

Celine Sciamma's direction is sensitive, drawing performances of astonishing naturalism from her young cast. Acquart is especially good, and it's a terrible shame that she's done little since (a couple of shorts, a music video and just one feature). For her part, Haenel has built on the promise shown here and in the earlier Les Diables and built a career as one of the best young character actors in European cinema. The visuals have a similar tone to Andrea Arnold's, in that they vacillate between a kitchen sink approach and a more designed and dreamlike feel. A distinctive and promising debut, it left the question of whether Sciamma could deliver on its huge promise with her next film.

Celine Sciamma made a powerful impression on me with her outstanding feature debut Water Lilies. Ever since I came out of that movie I'd been cautiously anticipating her follow up. Whenever a new director makes something as good as Water Lilies there's the question of whether they can follow it up with something equally impressive. Thankfully Tomboy was a confident, convincing affirmative to that question, and a second feature that really put its director on the map.

Like Water Lilies, Tomboy concerns itself with a girl's coming of age. Here Sciamma follows Laure (Zoé Héran), a tomboyish ten-year-old who, when asked her name by her new neighbour Lisa (Jeanne Disson), introduces herself as Mikael. 'Mikael' and Lisa become friends, and even share a first kiss, but Laure struggles to keep her secret from her new friend and from her family.

It's refreshing to see a movie these days which, while its focus is on young people, is truly adult. That quality is not defined by swearing, sex and violence, but the way in which it deals with complex and challenging issues of identity, sexuality and the process of growing up. Sciamma never talks down to the audience or moralises about its characters thoughts, feelings or choices. The film sensitively approaches any confusion about Laure/Mikael's pre-teen examination of her gender identity without making an absolute determination about her being a cisgender or trans youth. Tomboy isn't in any way politicized on this point, rather its strength is as an intimate and insightful drama about a young person trying to define themselves.

As befits a film so focused on issues of the body and identity, Tomboy often lingers in close-ups. Shooting on an adapted digital stills camera, with a very shallow depth of field, Sciamma gets right in to the personal space of her characters, especially that of Laure, her six-year-old sister Jeanne (Malonn Lévana), her neighbour, and a new, entirely male group of friends (cast from Zoé Héran's own real life group of friends).  Voyeuristic in its intimacy, intelligent compositions present a rather beautiful reality, and Sciamma squares a difficult circle in making a film that feels designed and directed, without allowing any of it to ring false or feel imposed on the actors.

As in Water Lilies, Sciamma's insight into young people coming of age through their interactions is spot on. She understands how to write kids who seem like kids. Even Laure's intelligent and somewhat wily sister (exploiting Laure's lie so that she can hang out with older kids) is written as a smart six-year-old, not as the precocious miniature adults of contemporary mainstream American cinema. Across the ensemble, there's never any sense of conscious performance, especially from the outstanding Zoé Héran and Malonn Lévana. Héran deals assuredly with a complex role, making you wonder as to how she and Sciamma talked about the character, and how her developing mind understood and approached Laure/Mikael's identity. The ease with which she shifts gears, going from unselfconsciously playing with her little sister and her parents, to being more outwardly controlled when she has to fit in with a group of boys, is remarkable. There's a great ease to the way the actors relate, a very real sense of family created between Héran, Lévana and Sophie Cattani and Mathieu Demy as their parents. The same dynamic also applies to the scenes between the children; be it the innocent first stirrings of attraction between Lisa and Mikael, or the games that the larger group of kids play. Always, there's a sense simply of Sciamma observing children being children.

Tomboy is full of memorable scenes and moments, be it the way that Jeanne visibly considers the decision of whether to expose her sister's lie when Lisa comes looking for Mikael, or the lovely scene when Jeanne cuts her sister's hair, completing her tomboy transformation. There's also much to admire in the organic growth of the friendship between Mikael and Lisa, with both charm and thematic interest in a scene in which Lisa puts make up on Mikael. 

Like Water Lilies, Tomboy packs real emotional punch, dealing in real and raw emotion. And though the performances are never overly demonstrative, you feel it all. Not quite as satisfying as her debut, Sciamma's follow-up remains one of 2011's best, that last moment of one to watch status that has since been earned and upgraded by equally insightful, well-acted coming of age movies both as a writer and a writer-director.

About half an hour into Girlhood, Céline Sciamma visualises the moment that 16-year-old protagonist Marieme (Karidja Touré) finds a temporary sense of belonging. Hanging out for a few weeks with a bad girl posse led by Lady (Assa Sylla), Marieme finds herself in the group but not quite one of the gang, always off to one side while being auditioned as the potential fourth member. In a hotel room, the girls have booked for a party, Marieme lies back as the others lipsync to Rhianna's 'Diamonds'. Halfway through the song, Marieme joins them. The lipsyncing stops and the girls, united, sing out loud. At that moment they're a group that Marieme is now fully part of. A moment that Marieme herself may not consciously recognise, but it's one of many that's powerfully and cinematically communicated in Girlhood.

The film's effective title is more striking than a direct translation of the French 'Bande De Filles', but coming so soon after Richard Linklater's Oscar-winning Boyhood, it somewhat mis-advertises Marieme's story as a feminised take on that film. Both are coming of age stories, but Marieme's experience couldn't be more different from Linklater's 12 years in the life of the suburban every boy. Set in the black community of the Paris banlieues, Marieme falls in with these troublesome teens, largely to get away from a troubled home life with her younger sisters, a single mother, and an abusive older brother. Some of the narrative incidents as she drifts towards and away from the gang, and a boyfriend she has to keep secret from her brother, are familiar, but Sciamma's perceptive screenplay has a sensitive and deep understanding of growing pains, beautifully borne out by the first-time performances of her cast.

This is Sciamma's third film, and it seems to mark a growth in confidence. It still finds the writer-director tackling the subject of a young woman coming of age, but here she engages with a different community and sets aside the LGBTQ issues confronted by characters in 2008's Water Lilies and 2011's Tomboy. Girlhood retains the intimacy of the previous films, but feels like a larger and more cinematic work, right from the opening sequence of an American football game between Marieme and her friends and another local team. It's a high energy beginning, powered by the ground level visuals and the choice of Light Asylum's 'Dark Allies' on the soundtrack. It also feels like the end of a chapter of Marieme's life - one we've not seen - as the lights go out in the stadium and the title appears against a black screen, signalling a new phase. 

This idea of phases beginning and ending is key to the film, which unfolds in five acts, each bracketed with a recurring motif. Sciamma ends the first three acts with a shot of Marieme's back, showing her literally turning it on a part of her past. The last two acts make subtle shifts in this pattern, but the lighting and framing is identifiably recurrent, with the camera always settled on Marieme's face in the first frame of each new act. These progressions feel like importantly demarcated chapters in Marieme's life, as Para One's score rises and a black screen marks a definitive act break, allowing a breather from the various anxieties of adolescence and a moment for the audience to reflect on the hard road of maturation for the life unfolding before them.

Marieme's experiences with Lady and their friends Adiatou (Lindsay Karamoh) and Fily (Mariétou Touré) form the bulk of the film. Not all are positive; the girls intimidate other pupils at Marieme's school for money and there are fights between gangs, but Sciamma refrains from judging, presenting these events as part of a complex social picture. Set almost entirely within the black communities of the banlieus, racism only occasionally rears its head, but there are notable incidents. As the girls browse in the mall, a white employee keeps a not too subtle eye on Marieme, assuming she might be out to steal. It's an uncomfortable scene, one the young cast have said rings true in their own lives. 

The girls are marginalised sexually as well as racially. Early on, the excited chatter of the group walking home from the American football game slows first to a murmur then to silence as they pass a group of boys. Much later, to survive in the male-oriented world of drug dealing, Marieme largely adopts an outwardly masculine swagger, unsmiling, she has a fierce appearance that presents a tough front. We can perhaps see the roots of this presentational tactic in the way Marieme is treated by her brother Djibril (Cyril Mendy). We get a sense of the fact she's scared of him and what he might do; when Marieme notices her younger sister's physical development and urges her to hide this from Djibril. The full implications of this are never dug into, but it sets a tense tone for any scenes in the household. That tension threatens to explode in one disturbing scene after Marieme returns home from her hotel party, when Djibril hugs his sister, only to tighten his grip and begin choking her. It's easy to see how Marieme's choice in how to present herself later is a way to defuse threats like this before they arise.

Despite going to some dark places, Girlhood does find moments of levity. The girls may appear fierce when facing down another gang in an argument across the platforms of a metro station, but they're also silly, funny, immature teenagers. As much as the Diamonds singalong is about Marieme becoming fully part of the group, it's also a pure moment of escape, of girls simply being girls together. In the lighter-hearted scenes, there are even flashes of broader comedy, such as when the girls go to play crazy golf and Fily gets upset when Adiatou does better than her. 

It's rare that these moments of escape have such an uncomplicated purity to them. Sciamma allows the real world to intrude frequently, most notably when the girls, minus Lady, run into an old member of their gang, now a parent to a small child. In this interaction we get a glimpse of the likely future; that the gang will break up and the girls will almost certainly end up in some sort of depressing domesticity, replaced by a younger generation. This is something seen beginning, when Marieme - now as much a leader of the pack as Lady - has to drag her sister away from a younger gang.

Like a mixed up teen, Girlhood has many mood swings, sulky one minute and jubilant the next, but these are knitted together in a way that feels like life itself by the completely natural performances of the four girls, all of them non-actors prior to shooting. Fily and Adiatou are less defined, but Lindsay Karamoh and Mariétou Touré each have their memorable moments. Assa Sylla as Lady and  Karidja Touré as Marieme make indelible impressions. Sylla is hugely charismatic, drawing the camera with just a hard stare, and a presence and attitude that marks her out as a natural leader. Initially all front, Lady is confrontational even when she invites Marieme to join the girls on an afternoon in town, but hidden behind that pose is a vulnerability that becomes visible, the more Marieme begins to understand and imitate Lady. 

Karidja Touré has the hardest job in the film, mapping Marieme's maturation in the way her persona changes through subtle shifts of confidence; none more so than when Lady renames her 'Vic' (for Victory). Slowly 'Vic' assumes some of Lady's dominance, even fighting battles for her. At other times those internal changes are signalled by external appearance, particularly Marieme's hair. At first, her long, childlike braids are removed and her hair straightened to make her seem womanly and chic before she starts dealing drugs and changing her hair to a harder look that enables her to cope better in that environment. Toure's performance is all the more moving for the emotional details she puts into her many changes of 'costume' that are worn like a girl trying on a new identity. 

Girlhood doesn't suggest that growing up is easy, and Sciamma never tries to assure the viewer that everything is going to work out for Marieme, leaving us to make up our own minds about the ending. Karidja Touré has said that she sees Marieme going off into a successful life, but even if one were to feel as hopeful about her future, it's clear that achieving this will be far from simple. Whatever the challenges, based on what we've already seen her go through, Marieme seems ready to step up and meet them, and it's through these experiences that, when the film goes to black for the last time, it feels like she's finally found an identity with which to do just that.


Streaming Suggestions: Cold November

For me, the renaissance in coming of age cinema - American coming of age cinema in particular - has been something that has largely happened outside the mainstream, and much of that content is now emerging less through traditional cinematic and physical home entertainment channels and more via various streaming sites. There are upsides and downsides to streaming. One of the bigger downsides is that, as with a traditional release model, there is a bias towards the mainstream. A film with a proven track record of success in cinemas or with big names in front of or behind the camera is always going to get put to the front of the line for your attention. What is good about streaming is that even if a film has a much lower profile, it IS still accessible - you don't have to drive for miles to the only cinema showing it. You do, however, have to do some digging and take some chances on films you won't know much, if anything, about going in. 

In this series, I'm aiming to do some of that digging for you, to find the little gold nuggets that you may have missed in the mass of available options and get you interested in watching them.

Cold November [2017]
Dir: Karl Jacob
Depending on what your family is like, rites of passage can come in many different forms. For 12 year old Florence (Bijou Abas), that comes in the form of the first time she's being allowed to go out solo on one of the deer hunts her family loves. That hunt happens to coincide with several other markers of growing up, from being gifted the gun her mother and aunt both learned to shoot with, to getting her first period.

Cold November deals with growing up as a series of jolts. Some, like the arrival of Florence's first period, are expected and others are shocks, like the aftermath of the death of her young cousin, now at least a few months ago, but still raw. Flo attempts to take all of these things and more in her stride. Sometimes, as in a touching scene in a car in the middle of the night as she comforts her aunt, she succeeds, but the reality is that she still only twelve. Self-assured as Flo is, we see her vulnerable moments - both those she hides and those she has to make more visible - in Bijou Abas' excellent performance.

With director Karl Jacob taking a supporting role as her uncle, the family dynamic ends up grounded and credible, which is hugely important in a film that is never driven by plot over character and the direction, while intimate, pulls back enough that we never feel manipulated by the filmmaking. It is worth noting that the film doesn't pull back from the realities of hunting, showing what appears to be real footage of deer being skinned and gutted, so consider that before you sit down to watch this one.

Like many of the better coming of age films, Cold November may be at some remove from its viewers lives in its details, but  in the broader themes I would imagine it's very familiar. I'd recommend it for adults who like the genre, but also for kids of Flo's age, who will likely find a lot to relate to here..

Cold November is available for free in the UK with an Amazon Prime subscription.


Review: Seventeen [2017]

Dir: Monja Art
The first fiction feature from Austrian writer/director Monja Art, following several shorts and documentary features, is a personal feeling coming of age film about 17 year old Paula (Elisabeth Wabitsch), in love with her friend Charlotte (Anaelle Dézsy) from afar. However, Charlotte is in a relationship with Michael and a frustrated Paula reaches out in the direction of other friends, looking for connection.

The coming of age film about unrequited feelings is a familiar trope - much as it’s a familiar theme in most of our teen years - but Seventeen stakes out slightly different territory for itself in the way it naturally folds that story into myriad other things going on for Paula and her friends. Clearly her feelings for Charlotte are on Paula’s mind a lot, but the film still finds time to develop friendships and stories that don’t always directly affect her between the other characters in Paula’s orbit. This can mean that the film feels bitty, but the throughline of Paula’s experiences remains strong. It definitely seems that Monja Art, if she’s not relating memories from her own teen years, strongly identifies with her lead. The comes across in the clarity of both her writing, which conjures moments that are both very specific and very easy to identify with, and her direction.

Most of the visuals here are functional, well captured, but not wildly individual. However, there are some moments in which the visual storytelling is excellent and shows that Art has an eye for sharp, clear, observation. There is some excellent use of close up detail. In one sequence we see Paula and Lilly both playing with rings on their fingers, fidgeting and passing time until one of them decides that enough time has passed and they can make up over a fleeting fight. A similar moment involves feet. Paula’s French teacher asks her to go to a competition and when he gives her the list of things she needs to practice we see his feet move too close, invading her space - she steps back, but he half re-asserts, moving in again, but not quite as close. Both of these moments, and others besides, use the economy of Art’s visual language to tell us a lot about her characters in moments that don’t need to be verbalised. This is also true of fleeting fantasy sequences, like the one in which Paula imagines the class laughing at her. These moments are just a little more colour saturated, both less ‘real’ and more vivid than life - in that case a fitting depiction of a flash of anxiety.

Art draws plenty from LGBTQ coming of age films that have gone before. Paula’s attempt to forge a relationship with a boy shares much with the storyline between Elin and Johan in Lukas Moodysson’s Fucking Amal, while a party scene in which Paula and Charlotte almost kiss before Charlotte pulls away and makes out with her boyfriend is redolent of the club scene in Water Lilies. Seventeen manages to stand on its own though, often thanks to the extremely unactorly performances, particularly that of Elisabeth Wabitsch as Paula. Despite the fact there is plenty of dialogue, there’s also a lot that we have to read without Paula stating it outright. The only time this doesn’t entirely work is in her choice to date a boy. Contextually it’s clear that this is more a (brief) effort to fit in than an attraction, but that comes through less in the character. However, that’s the only stumble in Wabitsch’s performance and she has many excellent moments, building to a very down to earth and realistic picture of Paula.

There are some frustrations to Seventeen. The script could perhaps have used a little tightening, but even the characters we don’t get to know that well seem rich enough to have an offscreen life. Some people may find the many loose ends left dangling to be unsatisfying, but while that’s true to some degree I also thought it chimed with the structure and the emotional content of the film. In coming of age cinema it’s not so much the end point that matters as how the characters find their way, and so it’s okay that we don’t know how every relationship here resolves. All in all, this is a strong debut from Monja Art, it would be nice to see something a little more adventurous from her in the future, but I’ll be looking for whatever that film turns out to be.

Seventeen is now available on UK DVD from Matchbox Films.


Review: Soundtrack to Sixteen

Dir: Hillary Shakespeare
Soundtrack to Sixteen takes place in London in the early 00s. Maisy (Scarlet Marshall) has never been kissed and worries about fitting in, both with her friends, most of whom have more experience, and with the 'cooler', more popular crowd. Ben (Gino Wilson) is initially okay with being a nerd, but when his grades start to slip he too wants to become more of a part of the popular crowd. When the two meet and get talking, a friendship begins and like many friendships at sixteen, it gets complicated.

I talked, in my introduction to this site, about how coming of age films are about universal experience. That's certainly true of Soundtrack to Sixteen, it's a film all about the messy nature of trying to fit in at that age, of navigating the changes and experiences we go through and of sometimes feeling inadequate or like an outsider because we haven't yet hit a particular milestone. With their screenplay, sisters Anna-Elizabeth and Hillary Shakespeare capture this beautifully. The writing spills over with detail, both in the situations and for me in the language. It's in these details that the film is truly affecting, because it's through them that it pricks most forcefully, thoughtfully and honestly at memory.

For me it was perhaps the voiceovers, relating Maisy and Ben's thoughts, often in opposition to what they actually end up doing or saying, that prompted the most visceral feeling of being thrown back into my own teenage years. The scene in which Maisy and Ben have their first proper conversation on an otherwise empty night bus is especially strong in this regard, with voiceover and dialogue running into each other in ways that are both funny and familiar. This scene though is far from the only one to hit in a personal spot for me. In a justly celebrated sequence in Eighth Grade we see Elsie Fisher at a party, very much on the outside looking in. There are similar moments here and even more so than in that film, they felt ripped from my own experiences and, I'd  wager, those of the filmmakers or their friends. There's never any doubt, from the moment the protagonists literally run into one another in the film's opening sequence, about where Soundtrack to Sixteen is heading, but it always charts its path with a great deal of warmth and wit.

A fairly inexperienced cast paired with a young director making a debut does mean that the film has some rough edges to it, most of which come in the performances. The supporting cast are a mixed bag, seemingly recruited from friends and family, they can sometimes come across a little stilted. Scarlett Marshall turns in a very good performance as Maisy, hitting just the right note of awkwardness while making her dialogue sound like she's saying it for the first time. That latter aspect is where Gino Wilson, though the two share a credible connection, can't quite match his co-lead. A little too often Wilson comes across as delivering lines, rather than just speaking off the top of his head. That said, this has a few moments in which it works to suggest Ben trying to stave off awkwardness by saying something he's rehearsed and perhaps sounded clever in his head - again, I can identify. Ultimately, I was invested in the pair and I still found myself very much identifying with Ben, particularly in a scene in which he and Maisy are studying in the library.

One thing that struck me watching this film is that we tend to talk about realism in film primarily as it relates to bad or difficult things happening to characters. The events of Soundtrack to Sixteen present their share of challenges for its characters and Maisy in particular goes through some tough things in her relationship with the popular girls she so desperately wants to be her friends. Despite that, this is at the end of the day something of a feelgood film and one that lives in to cliche, yet it still feels to me like it should be seen to some degree as a realist piece. I can't imagine anyone - especially a Brit who was young in the early to mid 00s - not finding something that speaks directly to them here.

This is by no means a perfect film, it bears many of the marks of what it is: a low to no budget debut produced with the help of family and friends, it's clearly been through a long process, having been shot in 2013 before premiering in 2019, but that process has allowed the Shakespeare sisters to hone it into a fine calling card and a film that, given the chance, ought to find a welcoming audience who will want to pass it on to their friends.

Growing Pains: An Introduction

I suspect that many of you reading this on the first day of the site being up know me and are familiar with my fascination for and love of teen and coming of age cinema. For the rest of you... perhaps I should explain. 
10 Things I Hate About You
From the time I started secondary school, aged 11, I was the movie kid. I always liked movies, but became an obsessive fan when I was in hospital, recovering from two liver transplants when I was 10 years old. For weeks I was in an isolation cubicle because of the risk of getting an infection. That was when, with nothing else to do, I got my mother to join the video shop closest to the hospital and I began to consume the appropriately certificated stock. I never looked back.

By the time I was 16, I was well used to friends asking me to recommend films to them, so I sent out a few emails with suggestions and reviews of what I had seen lately. That led on, when I went to college and we were given an assignment to build a website, to my first Geocities page of criticism. 

1999 was a pivotal year. I was 18, getting ready to attend college, and broadening my taste in film... and yet, the two films I most vividly remember seeing that year weren't art films, they weren't the classics I expected to be looking at in my film studies classes or the foreign language films I was digging in to at the video shop. They were teen movies, specifically 10 Things I Hate About You and American Pie. The first opened in June, and would have been one of the last films I saw with our neighbour Pete, who was also a movie buff and had for a few years been lending me videos and recording me films for Sky Movies to broaden my tastes. His tastes definitely ran more to the arthouse and to older films, he'd introduced me to a lot of foreign cinema, notably Francois Ozon, but he still came to see (and as I recall enjoyed) this teen movie with me. By October, when American Pie came out, I was at college, away from home, and went to see that film with a friend my own age and again, I remember us both enjoying the film, though perhaps in less different ways than Pete and I had appreciated 10 Things I Hate About You.

Those two screenings, looking back, feel emblematic of something I've long believed about teen and coming of age movies and why I still find them fascinating and relevant, as well as simply enjoying them as entertainment, as I approach age 38. Coming of age cinema is the cinema of universal experience. It could be argued that there is nothing else we dramatise that happens to every one of us. We don't all chase down serial killers, we don't all have a license to kill and an alcohol problem and we don't all fight space wars against giant alien bugs (I did, but that's another story). We do though all - some arguably more than others - grow up. We all navigate the complex social politics of school, we all go through a series of firsts: our first love, first heartbreak, first kiss, first loss. We all have to figure out who we are and who we want to be. This is what coming of age cinema is about.
American Pie
Personally, I've always had quite easy access to the feelings of that time in my life, perhaps because the transplant and other circumstances made me feel like I missed a few steps along the way, and I believe that's why teen movies and coming of age movies still speak to me. While the broad experiences and context are universal, the specifics are completely individual. There are as many coming of age stories to tell as there are people and they vary greatly depending on the circumstances of the person; their economic strata, their family situation, where in the world they're from, whether they are gay or straight, their gender identity. All of these things have come into play in coming of age movies and will come into play as I look at as wide a variety of the genre as I can manage for this site. The great critic Roger Ebert called film the most powerful empathy machine in all the arts. For me that's always been one of the major reasons I love and am interested in cinema: the chance to find myself in someone else's experience for a few hours at a time. That's never more true and I seldom feel more present in that moment than in coming of age cinema, because when you come right down to it, we all start from the same place.

With this site, I'll have reviews of teen and coming of age films new and old from all over the world. I particularly want to seek out films that haven't had a US or UK release. I also want to seek out short films, new filmmakers and particularly filmmakers who are young, to see how writers and directors going through these experiences translate them on to film. I'll cover news on exciting upcoming projects and I'll seek out filmmakers for interviews. I hope I'll also be able to draw ideas provoked by them together into some essay pieces (the first one, a three parter on a pivotal year in American teen movies, is on the way) as I build what I hope will become THE destination for people who love and are fascinated by this genre.