“Raw” and “Unflinching” get thrown around in coming-of-age film descriptions all the time, but “The Diary of a Teenage Girl” truly captures the experience of teenage sexuality without shying away from anything.
The film is set in San Francisco in 1976 and follows 15-year-old Minnie (Bel Powley) as she explores her sexuality—beginning with an affair with her mother’s boyfriend Monroe (Alexander Skarsgard).
Minnie narrates the film through diary entries recorded on cassette tapes, with a straightforward tone that is set from the film’s opening line– “I had sex today.” Minnie holds nothing back in her thoughts or actions, she unabashedly states how much she likes sex and wonders aloud to her diary if Monroe happens to be masturbating to her at that very moment. While Minnie’s sexual exploration isn’t limited to her relationship with Monroe it’s clear that he’s the one she’s the most emotionally invested in.
The narration is enchantingly lyrical, perfectly capturing the angst and sexual frustration of being a teenager, and the cinematography brings life to the comics and sketches Minnie expresses herself through. Since the film is told in Minnie’s own voice there’s no judgment placed on her choices, making it the incredibly rare film that allows a teenage girl to be a sexual being without lasting negative repercussions. When, in one scene, Minnie and her best friend give strangers blow jobs for five dollars, no one pins a scarlet A on their chests. Instead, Minnie realizes she doesn’t like the feeling she’s left with afterwards and they decide not to do it again. Minnie’s sexual experimentations serve their purpose as learning experiences without having to come back to haunt her later on. Even when her affair with Monroe is discovered, despite her mother’s shock and anger there’s no lasting blame placed on Minnie. Instead, she’s given the space to realize on her own that she wants more than Monroe, and when the relationship ends it is with the sense that this is Minnie’s own choice.
Bel Powley’s performance is stunning. She holds nothing back in her portrayal of Minnie, leaving the audience with an image of a three dimensional teenage girl, who’s flawed and wonderful all at once.
The Diary of A Teenage Girl hits theaters August 7, 2015
Written by: Phoebe Gloeckner & Marielle Heller
Directed by: Marielle Heller