Film review: The Diary of a Teenage Girl

The Diary Of A Teenage Girl: Bel Powley
The Diary Of A Teenage Girl: Bel Powley
  • Genre: Drama/Comedy/Romance
  • Certificate: 18
  • Running time: 102 mins
  • Star rating: 9/10
  • Cast: Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgard, Kristen Wiig, Christopher Meloni, Madeleine Waters, Abby Wait, Quinn Nagle, Austin Lyon. Director: Marielle Heller.
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No-one emerges from the emotional minefield of adolescence without a few bruises and scars.

In that time of hormone-fuelled experimentation and startling self-realisation, when sexuality is wonderfully fluid, it’s important to stumble and fall – sometimes spectacularly – before nervously crossing the rubicon into adulthood.

Adapted from Phoebe Gloeckner’s graphic novel, The Diary Of A Teenage Girl elegantly documents a 15-year-old’s sprint through this minefield without casting judgement on the morally flawed characters, or condemning them for their provocative actions.

First-time writer-director Marielle Heller takes her aesthetic lead from the era (bell-bottomed 70s San Francisco) and the visually arresting 
source material.

She bleaches her palette to resemble washed-out instamatic camera print and visualises the heroine’s day dreams as animated sequences – courtesy of artist Sara Gunnarsdottir - that occasionally blossom within the live action.

These risky stylistic ambitions could have been Heller’s downfall, but there’s charm and purpose in the amalgamation of filmmaking styles.

The writer-director is aided by an excellent cast led by British rising star Bel Powley, who sports a flawless American accent and exposes herself - figuratively and literally - to the camera for close scrutiny.

It’s a far cry from her comical turn as a plummy Princess Margaret in A Royal Night Out.

As Minnie breathlessly details events leading up to the loss of her virginity, we realise with a shudder that her first sexual partner is her mother’s 35-year-old boyfriend, Monroe (Alexander Skarsgard).

When Minnie’s bohemian, drug-snorting mom (Kristen Wiig) discovers the illegal relationship, Heller navigates the fallout with considerable flair and sensitivity.

The Diary Of A Teenage Girl is anchored by Powley’s portrayal of a bud waiting to bloom in the warmth of the northern California sun. There’s a beautiful scene early in the film when she stands in front of a mirror and traces the contours of her naked body, while wondering, “What’s the point of living if nobody loves you, nobody sees you, nobody touches you?”

Her heroine’s sense of fateful curiosity infuses every artful frame, catalysing terrific scenes with Wiig and Skarsgard, who lends his divisive character an easygoing charm and fallibility.

Humour cuts through the potentially sensationalist subject matter, allowing us to view the storm through Minnie’s eyes before the tears fall.