Before Boys – European Independent Film Festival 2021 – Film Review
There is so much angst involved in discovering your own attractiveness to others as a teenager and this level of angst uncomfortably unfolds in Before Boys. Before Boys is a reminder of that awkward period of placing oneself in potentially perilous situations to prove your worthiness to your peers, that many will identify with. Before Boys is well executed over the course of a night conveying that sensation of boredom on a girls’ night in which is explored empathetically on one hand but on the other hand there is the occurrence of rapid escalation.
The film’s sporadic flashes of red emphasise that danger for the girls when a dare becomes a reality. The dynamics between the girls with their differing personalities and developing bodies is an intriguing immersion within Before Boys. It is to director Florence Faure’s credit that the film succeeds in highlighting the value of female friendships, during impressionable years, as well as the danger for young girls meeting random older men.
Before Boys subtly captures Claire’s outlook amongst this disparate group of girls. Claire’s role as an outsider is established quite early as she simply looks that much younger than the other girls. Whilst the other three girls in the group dress in flowing dresses, have long hair and wear make up, representative of the Instagram generation, Claire looks pre-pubescent. These marked differences highlight Claire’s angst further in an impressive directorial debut by Faure and a convincingly empathetic portrayal by Asia Amans as Claire.
Faure accentuates these concepts of deceptive appearances further as most of the girls in the ensemble appear to be more mature and flaunt their sensuality without having that worldliness and awareness of their surroundings. Claire by contrast projects a degree of masculinity, she utters profanity and appears tougher than the others. Despite the veneer of solid friendship amongst the girls, the disparate layers embedded are exposed revealing the tenuous connections between the girls and Claire’s desperation to belong.
Faure’s direction unveils fast paced witty dialogue and a world where Claire and friends exaggerate sexual encounters under peer pressure. Before Boys’ darker elements also manifest themselves when Claire and friends adopt an approach to dating apps similar to a set of girls conjuring a magic spell, which is empathised by the cinematography’s dark lighting with red hues and lots of black clothing. Claire’s social ineptness and anxiety manifest themselves further as she takes matters too far with her decision to meet a stranger from online conversations.
Before Boys juxtaposes Clare’s impulsive decision with its use of a cupboard full of toys as a symbol emphasising her desires to remain a child rather than transforming into an object of desire for the opposite sex. This safe space for Claire is given a visual, homely treatment as the camera’s lens turns to black and white. Faure’s approach to depicting Claire’s turbulent emotions is visionary but equally produces comfort with such cinematography. It is a bold technique, as it is both jarring and hypnotic in equal measure, within the film, as well as insightful.
Before Boys remarkably tackles the complexity of teenage sexuality melding sexual curiosity, innocence and inertia to change. Claire symbolises that resistance to change by wearing baggy clothes to remove any unwanted attention. This element draws parallels to scenes in Celine Sciamma’s Girlhood when Marieme, as the protagonist, is forced to adopt a more masculine stance for her protection.
In spite of its short length, Before Boys accurately conveys teenage uncertainty alongside grooming and depicts this in a sensitive manner. Claire may not seem approachable with her brusque manner but may elicit sympathy from audiences. Before Boys celebrates personality differences amongst girls evoking that understanding that everyone develops at their own pace to discover their own identity and role within a group.
Before Boys is an assured, impressive directorial debut depicting the seedy side of Paris by night as a backdrop to a teenage girl’s exploration of sexual desire. The colour grading assists with presenting a stark reality for Claire and works as a cautionary tale, in making that transition between childhood and girlhood. Before Boys featured within the European Independent Film Festival 2021 where Faure was awarded the Best Director prize and Before Boys’ novel approach to this subject matter and striking directional choices will ensure that the film remains a talking point.