This seed is nothing like Jack’s magic beans.
It grows a flower that causes body switching, but not the kind you saw in Big or Freaky Friday. Three bullied girls of ambiguous sexuality will have
the opportunity to experience life as the opposite sex in Alexandre-Therese
Keining’s Girls Lost (trailer here), an adaptation of
Jessica Schiefauer’s award-winning Swedish YA novel, which screens as the
closing night selection of this year’s NewFest.
Kim, Momo, and Bella have always been bullied
by classmates who assume they are lesbians. Naturally, the teachers look the
other way, because they are bitter, low-level civil servants. The girls’ homes
share a common backyard, so Bella’s greenhouse serves as their clubhouse. In
her recent online nursery order she was surprised to find an exotic bonus seed,
but being a teenager she plants anyway. The next day, it fully sprouts into a
slightly sinister looking black flower. Juice from its buds will indeed produce
the gender switch effect, but it is only temporary—and each usage clearly
depletes the flower’s vitality.
For Momo and Bella, it is an interesting experience,
but it does not hold deep psychological significance for them. In contrast, the
transitory periods confirm Kim’s suspicions she is really meant to be a boy.
Despite the pain it causes her friends, she spends more and more time in her altered
state, so she can get close to Tony, their bad boy classmate, whom she suspects
is also deeply closeted.
The ensuing complications regarding gender and
sexuality get wickedly thorny. However, that complex rat’s nest of passions and
resentments is what gives Lost so
much power. This is not your average high school coming-of-age or coming-out story,
but rather a supernaturally zeitgeisty love triangle. The young cast does some
remarkable work selling the intricate and conflicting series of relationships,
especially Tuva Jagell, Louise Nyvall, and Wilma Hollmen as Kim, Momo, and
Bella in their original female selves. Emrik Ohlander, Alexander Gustavsson,
and Vilgot Ostwald Vesterlund look like perfect male analogs, but only
Gustavsson displays a similarly forceful screen presence.
Keining does not
chicken out of showing the transition process, but the special effects team
renders them in a way that is wonderfully subtle and evocative. Likewise, Ragna
Jorming’s rich chiaroscuro-like cinematography and Sophia Ersson’s
electro-soundscape score work perfectly in tandem to create an eerie mood.
While the teen angst approaches melodramatic levels from time to time, Keining
explores the emotional implications of the fantastical premise with brutal
honesty. Obviously, it is an appropriate fit for NewFest audiences, but the
characters’ insecurities should resonate for a wide range of “outsider” teens.
Recommended for fans of teen urban fantasy, Girls
Lost closes the 2015 NewFest this Tuesday night (10/27) at the Bow Tie Chelsea.
Labels: Body-switch movies, NewFest '15, Scandinavian Cinema