Sundance 2015 Review: The Diary of a Teenage Girl

Based on the graphic novel by Phoebe Gloekner, writer-director Marienne Heller’s The Diary of a Teenage Girl feels like an energetic love-letter to the crossroads between female adolescence and womanhood.

Minnie (Bel Powley), a teenage girl and aspiring comic artist starts an affair with her Mother (Kristen Wiig)’s boyfriend, Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård).

Heller’s film feels like a love letter to female youth in its empowered examination of blossoming female sexuality and confidence. Its narrative is told from the perspective of fifteen-year old Minnie, and refuses to cast any form of ‘adult’ judgement on the situation – Minnie sees nothing wrong in her relationship with her thirty-five year old stepfather figure – although this is a tale of coming of age, it is told with a childlike energy and influence. This makes The Diary of a Teenage Girl feel like it is being told in a unique voice.

With the energy and vitality of the every-shifting teenage mind, Heller’s film is amusing in its almost hormonally-charged immaturity whilst also often hitting home with a simple naivety. A variety of crudely amusing animations add a further youthful energy, and teenage flavour to the narrative – from misshapen penises to one-hundred foot teenagers attacking cities, Heller packs The Diary of a Teenage Girl with a real visual humour and flair.

An outstanding cast help ensure that this melting pot of ever-changing human emotions feels authentic and well-pitched. Powley perfectly captures the dichotomy between confident young woman and naive teenager with ease in a performance ripe with comic excellence, vibrant energy and relatable emotion. Skarsgård is equally outstanding as the handsome, yet morally dubious Monroe. The actor perfectly conveys the balance between addictive lust and troubled moral conscience incredibly convincingly. Wiig is a powerful addition to the cast as she conveys the struggles of motherhood, whilst battling potential issues with alcohol and her partner’s infidelity.

With a well-handled comedy, excellent period detail, and energetic direction, The Diary of a Teenage Girl will go down well with fans of coming of age films. There is a slight familiarity that surrounds Heller’s film as it falls prey to many of the usual genre trappings – but for the most part it is an enjoyable watch.

Also featured on The People’s Movies.

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