I'm a complete sucker for coming of age movies. Especially if the film is told from the perspective of a child, count me in. Enter the 1999 vehicle, Girls Can't Swim, an unusual if not affecting French film, about two young girls growing up in France. The film chronicles one summer in the lives of these two girls and unfortunately it's not a happy story.
Essentially the story of Girls Can't Swim is told in three acts. Although the two female leads Lise and Gwen are best friends, they don't actually appear onscreen together until well into the final act of the story. Gwen lives with her mother and her sometimes there sometimes not father. The relationship between the three is rocky at best. Gwen is obviously looking for some kind of fulfillment and she fills the void spending some "alone" time with a few of the local boys. The only thing that seems to keep her going are the periodic letters she receives from Lise, who had to postpone her scheduled visit with Gwen due to summer school. After the unfortunate incident of her father passing away in a car accident, Lise decides to skip town and join her friend Gwen. From this point on, the term "rocky relationship" takes on a whole new meaning as things go from bad to worse. Never has the term "full circle" meant so much as it does within Girls Can't Swim.
The story of Girls Can't Swim is told through a very complicated narrative structure. We're given each girl's intro story separately, essentially this comprises the first two acts of the film. Girls Can't Swim is a character driven film at heart and the performances are very important to its success or failure. I found all of the performances to be dead on target. There are some scenes that may contain either discussions or actions of a frank sexual nature that may disturb some. Not for nothing, these scenes are very important to the narrative structure of the film.
Not a happy story, Girls Can't Swim contains at least a few scenes thrown In that may actually make you gasp. I found the performances to all be top notch (especially the two young female leads). I especially appreciated the honesty attributed to each of the characters and the unique style in which the story was told. Just as in real life, they can't all be happy endings. It's a slice of life that I wouldn't want any part of, but it definitely makes for interesting cinematic viewing.