Céline Sciamma’s bold, refreshing and assured debut feature Water Lilies marked the beginning of her engrossing explorations of gender expressions and sexual orientations – focusing on queer and feminist themes – that she’s made the central tenet of her filmography so far. It also formed the first chapter in her ‘Coming-of-Age Trilogy’, along with the extraordinary Tomboy and the commendable Girlhood; on hindsight, however, along with the magnificent next film (where gender identity was a key theme), it felt also close to the sublime Portrait of a Lady on Fire (where patriarchal societal constructs played a crucial role), in their protagonists’ tentative but defiant sexual awakenings. The film’s closely-knit narrative, set over the course of a single summer in a Parisian suburb in the 1960s, chronicled the burgeoning and evolving inter-dynamics of three adolescent girls, and their coming-of-age through their yearnings and desires. The tomboyish, taciturn, gangly Marie (Pauline Acquart) and the gauche, overweight Anne (Louise Blachère) aren’t just close friends, their introverted natures mean they’re also the only real buddies they have in school or outside. Marie, meanwhile, has developed a deep but silent crush for the slightly older Floriane (Adèle Haenel), the popular and attractive captain of the school’s synchronized swimming team, who’s scoffed at by the other girls for her supposed promiscuity and relentlessly pursued by the guys, one of whom Anne has fallen for. Over the course of the lazy summer vacation, therefore, each of the three girls experience the joys, epiphanies, confusions and heartbreaks associated with love, and in turn self-discovery. Interestingly, the film – beautifully photographed, evocatively scored and brought forth through terrific, naturalistic turns by the three girls – was almost completely devoid of adult characters.
Director: Celine Sciamma
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama/Romantic Drama/Coming-of-Age