Girlhood

"Very Good"

Girlhood Review


Most people assume that boys will be more violent than girls, especially in the adolescent years. The stereotype is that boys work out their aggression with bloodthirsty sparring while girls internalize their problems with unhealthy cliques of peers who focus on shopping or dieting. But having researched the growing percentages of assaults on women by women, documentary filmmaker Liz Garbus follows two young female delinquents as they struggle through the structure they didn't have at home while trying re-enter society.

Shanae is 13 years old. At the age of 10, she was gang-raped by five boys, reacted by delving into drugs and alcohol, and ended up at the Waxter facility after stabbing a friend to death. Megan is 14 and has been in and out of foster homes for years since her addict mother prostituted herself to earn money for drugs. Megan was sent to the same detention center after assaulting a peer with a box cutter.

Girlhood follows their progress over a three-year span during which the supervisors try to track their progress and whether or not a return to their families will foster the necessary encouraging environment to succeed. While Megan's family has been begrudgingly forced to deal with their irresponsible actions reflected in her rebellions, Shanae's parents congenially remind her that she's where she belongs for now to learn a life's lesson. When it's a question of tough love (for Shanae) versus forging an unknown path of responsibility for the first time (Megan), it's hard to see where either of these young women will end up. They are smart enough to spot errors in living, but having not seen much in the way of role models, who's to say they will find a more appropriate path?

It's never clear what the processes are to therapeutically bring these girls to the point that they can again be a productive part of society, which is unfortunate considering Girlhood is a study of two of the products of the system. The staff at Waxter is always seen in a positive light, compassionate and caring, able to communicate with the same youthful lingo as their guests. By focusing from a vantage in direct opposition to most films that follow offenders through any type of criminal justice system, though, the importance of what is being shown stays with the young women and not on penalizing a program set up to help.

Considering Shanae and Megan have survived through such extreme conditions so far, sympathy for them is fairly easily built and you do root for them every step of the way. When Shanae begins to equate the murders she sees in the paper with her past actions, the realization is truly heartbreaking, even though no tears are shed. As Megan bluntly discusses how she won't end up like her mother because she wants things out of life while her parent doesn't, the brunt of early maturity is unbearably striking. That these two girls can be so matter-of-fact about what they've been through, instead of dramatizing because they are being constantly watched, is a credit to Garbus' ability to pick a touching subject that will have you pondering for some time.

Girls fight tonight.



Girlhood

Facts and Figures

Run time: 112 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 22nd October 2014

Distributed by: Pyramide Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

IMDB: 6.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Also starring: ,

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