Selected for Un Certain Regard in Cannes, and now screening as part of the London Film Festival, GIRL, from Belgium, is a stunning debut feature from Lukas Dhont, from his own screenplay. It is a highly emotional story, outlining the journey taken by a transgender teenager, transitioning into the body she so desires. But it’s not going fast enough for her. As a clearly talented ballet dancer, she now has to learn from scratch what her female counterparts have spent years building their bodies towards – namely going ‘en pointe’. Lara endures the pain, the bleeding and battered toes and role change in order to prove herself at her prestigious dance academy. Ostensibly she is accepted there by her peers, but scratch below the surface, and the stress she is put under by herself, and them, knowingly or otherwise, leads to unimaginable consequences. And she is one of the lucky ones, with an incredibly supportive and accepting single father, (wonderfully played by Arieh Worthalter), and a much younger sibling brother as well as counselling and constant medical intervention. We join her two years away from the surgery she so desperately wants, and she has clearly already fought battles to get to this point.
Lara is played by the cisgender actor, Victor Polster, who is phenomenally powerful in his first screen role, and as the tension of the story grows, and the mental and physical anguish builds and builds, the viewer is put through the wringer, alongside the teenager. But this is a beautifully observed story, visually intense, that should absolutely not be missed. It is an incredibly moving, highly sensitive , expressive and affirming film, and will leave the audience questioning in a positive way.