Girls Lost ***
Starring: Tuva Janell, Emrik Öhlander, Wilma Holmén, Louise Nyvall
Director: Alexandra-Therese Keining
Some of the most interesting fantasy films come out of a very simple question. In this case, the question is simply what would happen if you could change gender for a day? And while movies like It's A Boy Girl Thing have explored this issue from a comedy angle, Swedish indie film Girls Lost takes a much more austere stance, looking at the concept's ramifications for both gender and sexuality.
Kim (Janell), Bella (Holmén) and Momo (Nyvall) are best friends, whose bonds have been made all the stronger for the bullying they receive at school. Momo is a keen horticulturist, and when a strange pod appears in a delivery of seeds, she eagerly awaits what will appear from the pot in her greenhouse. Overnight, a magical plant appears and the girls tentatively taste its nectar, which unexpectedly transforms them all temporarily into boys. Initially, they all enjoy their newfound anonymity, but Kim (Öhlander as a boy) soon becomes enraptured of her new friendship with a volatile boy, who is unable to understand his feelings for his new friend.
Initially, the film's message seems to be that boys and girls are judged on different standards. That where as girls they are bullied for the way they look, as boys they can slip under the radar. Unfortunately this seems a somewhat outdated stance, in a world where boys today are just as prone to body dysmorphia and problems with self esteem as girls. But as the film starts the explore Kim's actual gender identity, it steps onto more solid ground. Where the others enjoy the novelty of being a boy for a short time, Kim realises that this is the person she should always have been.
The actresses who play the girls are likeable enough, but it is Öhlander who really gets beneath the skin of his character's complex issues. He shows the innocence of a young person who has finally found himself, but who is hiding from the reality of what that truth means. The film's main problem, however, is its lack of any real direction. It drops little seeds everywhere (pardon the pun), but never really follows any of them through, especially with the confusion the gender-swap means for her - and others' - sexuality. There's nothing wrong with an ambiguous ending, but with Girls Lost's emotional climax, you can't help but hope for just a little more finality.
The girls find confidence in their new identities, which says a lot about the subjugation of women in their community. Unlike Kim however, the other two girls find empowerment in their femininity after experiencing the freedom that being boys has afforded them. It's just a shame that it took something so extreme for them to achieve this.
As the girls cycle around their neighbourhood, while the gang of bullies drinks and smokes in the woods, all to a synth soundtrack, Girls Lost owes a lot to the coming-of-age movies of the 80s. Where many of these films referred implicitly to gender and sexuality through metaphors, this film presents them front and centre, without hiding behind any big fat metaphors. This is definitely a film tapped straight into the current zeitgeist. Essentially, where Let The Right One In was the Swedish edgy Twilight, Girls Lost is the Swedish edgy Stranger Things. Except without the amazing kids.