Saturday, July 13, 2024

“GIRLS WILL BE GIRLS”

THE STORY – In a strict boarding school nestled in the Himalayas, 16-year-old Mira discovers desire and romance. But her sexual, rebellious awakening is disrupted by her mother, who never got to come of age herself.

THE CAST – Preeti Panigrahi, Kani Kusruti & Kesav Binoy Kiron

THE TEAM – Shuchi Talati (Director/Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 118 Minutes


The old adage “boys will be boys” is always spoken to excuse male behavior, whether it’s roughhousing when playing sports or truly inexcusable actions. But “girls will be girls”? As many young women have learned, there’s no excuse for their behavior, and they’re expected to never act on any impulses, no matter how natural they may be. The playing field is never the same between young men and women, especially when it comes to sexual desires, as so poignantly shown in Shuchi Talati’s “Girls Will Be Girls.”

Both an examination of how much patriarchal systems rule societies and a look into fraught mother-daughter relationships, Talati’s debut feature is an intimate portrait of a young girl’s discovery of desire and romance. It’s at its best when it focuses on an unlikely love triangle and how much women have to suppress themselves in society, conjuring up several emotions.

Set in a strict boarding school nestled in the Himalayas, 16-year-old Mira (Preeti Panigrahi) has just been named head prefect at her conservative school. She’s the first female student to have earned the title and a deserving one to accomplish that feat as she’s studious, a rule follower, and not afraid to call out her classmates’ problematic behavior. When she scans through a crowd or tells someone they need to fix their act, we know she means business, all thanks to Panigrahi’s stoic performance.

Unlike other girls in her class, Mira is not interested in boys until new student Sri (Kesav Binoy Kiron) arrives. The two get to know each other in the astronomy club, and soon enough, they can’t stop spending time with each other. The young love is brought to life so sweetly by Panigrahi and Kiron, who are eager to explore each other’s bodies and desires. That is until Mira’s mom, Anila (Kani Kusruti), becomes suspicious of what her daughter is doing. In order to keep a watchful eye on the two of them, Anila makes the two teens hang out in her home. It should be a win-win situation until Mira notices that Sri begins to compliment her mother. It’s a love triangle we don’t expect, but it’s easily the most exciting aspect of the film.

It’s not so much the dynamic between Anila and Sri that is exciting, but how mother and daughter envy each other’s positions. Anila longs for attention, and when Sri seems to enjoy, and even welcome, her company, she can’t hide the joy it gives her. It also allows her to experience something she longed for as an adolescent herself – we can only imagine that Anila’s parents didn’t allow a male friend from school to come over and hang out with her. On the other hand, Mira acts out and spirals once Sri begins to ice her out, causing even more of a rift in her already contentious relationship with her mother. Mira can’t stand how her mother is acting, leading to a few vicious verbal exchanges between the two women.

But this mother and daughter pair are not fully able to be who they want to be because, simply put, they’re women. Teachers scold female students for wearing short skirts, telling them they’re provoking their male peers and they’re the reason why the boys are taking photos up their skirts, instead of scolding the young men for their disgusting actions. Many also have their eyes on Mira whenever she’s seen speaking with Sri, signaling that it’s not okay for a young woman to have any interest in young men. However, it’s doubtful anyone is doing that to her male counterpart. Even her own mother shares that if Mira’s grades slip because of Sri, her father will take it out on Anila – a statement that says everything we need to know about the role of women in this part of the world.

“Girls Will Be Girls” loses a bit of steam as it heads into its third act, moving in a whole different direction when Mira plays principal for the day at her school, but that doesn’t take away from the intelligent script Talati has crafted up until that point. Her examination of the patriarchy, how it controls two women’s lives, and the tension between them is engaging and leads to an unlikely drama that’ll keep viewers hooked.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - Shuchi Talati systematically examines the patriarchal system and fraught mother-daughter relationships. It's at its best when it focuses on an unlikely love triangle and how much women must suppress themselves in society. Wonderful performances from Preeti Panigrahi and Kani Kusruti.

THE BAD - It loses some steam as it enters its third act.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 7/10

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Ema Sasic
Ema Sasic
Journalist for The Desert Sun. Film critic and awards season enthusiast. Bosnian immigrant

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>Shuchi Talati systematically examines the patriarchal system and fraught mother-daughter relationships. It's at its best when it focuses on an unlikely love triangle and how much women must suppress themselves in society. Wonderful performances from Preeti Panigrahi and Kani Kusruti.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>It loses some steam as it enters its third act.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b>None<br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>7/10<br><br>"GIRLS WILL BE GIRLS"