It follows a ten year old girl as she passes herself off as a boy to a new group of friends. Matters are then complicated as she is forced to go to further extremes to conceal her real identity.
Just like Water Lilies the central character is forced through a period of change, which in this case is coming to grips with gender. The topic is handled delicately and realistically, instead of being sensationalised as one may expect. Much of this is due to Sciamma’s direction and the very natural performances from all the cast. Of course the star of the show is the ‘Tomboy’ herself Zoe Heran, playing the role with complete conviction. Her androgynous appearance and mature performance allows the audience not only to buy into the plot, but also sympathise with her as a character. If anyone else were cast the film may not have worked as a whole and certain aspects may have even seemed laughable.
Stylistically, Schiamma keeps the camera static and avoids hand held wherever possible, resulting in many beautifully framed sequences. Visually this drama has almost an oneiric feel, with stunning uses of natural light and some well considered edits. Scenes are tied together loosely which gives the narrative a certain ‘choppy’ energy. This fits in perfectly with the themes of childhood, and allows most sequences to seem almost spontaneous.
For the DVD version extras include a ‘Making Of’ featurette and trailer. The featurette is well worth watching, giving an informative look into Schiamma’s creative mindset as well as gives a good account of how the film came to be.
Some may be disappointed that there is not a bigger revelation by the end, but it is Tomboy’s understated style which makes it so charming. The delicate handling of the subject matter and the striking cinematography allow this well constructed drama to stand apart.