Written and directed by Leonie Krippendorff, in the heat of a shimmering summer Nora (Lena Urzendowsky), a shy 14-year-old Berlin girl, falls for Romy (Jella Haase) and discovers a whole new world. Also starring: Lena Klenke, Elina Vildanova, Mohammed Issa, Hussein Iliraqui and Anja Scneider.
There is a slowly growing list of recent films that accurately and authentically represent the experience of being a teen girl, with features like Rocks and Eighth Grade, now Cocoon can be added to the list. At its heart, this film is an exploration of a tender age, capturing the curiosity, the insecurities and the naivety. The metaphor of caterpillar to butterfly may not be the most subtle and yet it still works perfectly because it succinctly captures the experience that Nora is going through and laying it on even thicker with her collection of caterpillars brings a lovely connection to nature throughout the film which adds a gentleness to her character.
The writing hits all the themes you’d expect of this story, everything from periods to sexuality to abandonment issues and it does so in a simple, youthful style but as the story develops you start to see the hidden depths to it that take it that step further. The direction then envelops that story in a vibrant package, the style feels very much in line with the perspective it’s trying to follow, bringing so much movement and variation in the shots creates a superb atmosphere of youth, and vulnerability with a charming energy. It’s also topped by an almost 80s style score, as well as including a few classic hits like Bowie’s Space Oddity, it really pushes that coming-of-age vibe with adventure, awakenings and fleeting romance. Its story develops in a way that’s similar to Skate Kitchen, it doesn’t present it as though it’s a journey from a to b, it’s about all the experiences in-between, it’s entirely focused on Nora working through the utter confusion and maze that is being a teenage girl.
Having a focus that strong means you need a strong performance and Lena Urzendowsky provides that without a doubt, this is an incredible portrayal for such a young actress, to bring such a naivety and yet create this open, kind and curious soul. Urzendowsky brings a real resilience to Nora, even after embarrassing or difficult experiences, she so easily picks herself up, she balances out that naïve nature with a form of emotional maturity that’s way beyond her years. Lena Klenke’s Jule has all the arrogance you’d expect and yet she brings these little intimate moments that show what’s beneath the short shorts and bravado, it’s an impressive performance in the sense that you shouldn’t like her but you can’t help it because you can see Jule’s hidden potential. Jella Haase is a lovely addition as Romy, it’s a shame the film only briefly explores her background but she has a great chemistry with Urzendowsky and they’re effortless to watch on screen together, her performance sincerely ticks all the boxes for a first real lesbian crush.
Cocoon is an authentic, moving and vibrant portrayal of what it is to be a teenage girl and all the myriad of problems and emotions that come with it. Lena Urzendowsky is perfection as Nora, she has such an individuality and openness to her that she’s entrancing to watch, adding Jella Haase to the mix makes for a charming and sweet pair. It brings so much sincerity without ever having to sacrifice any of that youthful, reckless and lively energy. Being only Krippendorff’s second feature, she brings an impressive amount of style and perspective to this film, it has a surprising amount of depth and warmth that make for a superb coming-of-age tale.