Water Lilies is showing in the "CineSalon: Beyond the Ingenue" film festival presented by the French Institute/Alliance Francaise on Tuesday, September 27, 2016. Tickets for the New York City venue are available here.
Teens experience so much pain, frustration, and humiliation in their explorations of sexuality. They are aware of the mystery of this aspect of our nature but haven't got a clue as to how to deal with all of their yearnings. They do not know where love begins and ends because it is all mixed-up with the myths about romance that they've been fed all their young lives. And worst of all, they have to try to figure this all out while dealing with changes in their bodies and deflecting the criticism of their peers. French writer and director Céline Sciamma delves into all these delicate matters in this poised and poignant drama about three young adolescent girls in a suburb of Paris.
Marie (Pauline Acquart) is a shy and flat-chested teenager whose best friend is Anne (Louise Blachére), who is overweight. She desperately wants to be a member of the popular crowd but knows in her heart that she will never measure up. Anne is affiliated with a girl's synchronized swimming team. At a competition, all eyes are on Floriane (Adéle Haenel), a sexy blonde who is captain of the team. Floriane has no end of male suitors who present themselves to her in a variety of situations. But she has no female friends since the girls are all jealous of her beauty.
Marie is entranced by Floriane the first time she sees her perform and yet is unsure of how to get into her good graces. She asks to watch the practice sessions and soon finds herself following Floriane around from one competition to the next. There is a sexual undertow to Marie's feelings for her but she is hesitant to act upon them for fear of being rejected. Floriane is happy to have a companion but wants to use Marie for her own purposes.
Water Lilies flows with natural ease from one scene to the next. The writer and director has purposely chosen to exclude adults from the storyline and the boys in the drama have very little to say. This choice adds to the intensity of the yearning that animates Marie, Floriane, and Anne.
Sciamma has done an effective job conveying the ways in which beauty can be a handicap as it isolates those who possess it. Anne struggles with her sexuality and winds up expressing her wildness by stealing jewelry from a store and throwing herself at François (Warren Jacquin), the best looking swimmer at the pool, who accidentally sees her nude one day in the women's locker room. But our sympathies lie with Marie whose circuitous journey into the far country of sexuality is a roller-coaster ride of ups and downs as she experiences the rawness of her feelings of both pain and pleasure in her relationship with Floriane.
Special DVD features include deleted scenes and casting segments.