Directed by Alli Haapasalo and written by Ilona Ahti and Daniela Hakulinen, three young women try to defy the persistent winter darkness in Finland. In the process, they move between dreams, reality, friendship and relationships, and try to make sense of the whole mess. Starring: Aamu Milonoff, Eleonoora Kauhanen and Linnea Leino.
One of the fantastic things about the evolution of coming of age stories is how they incorporate queer themes, primarily the fact that we no longer have to make coming out a part of the conversation. It’s so satisfying to be able to see a lesbian story such as this just naturally bloom, unhindered by old fashioned sensibilities and strict perspectives of society. It’s much more fluid and realistic, allowing it to feel authentic which is so often missing. Ilona Ahti and Daniela Hakulinen have created a story which fits perfectly into the new breed of teenage cinema, it’s still full of the typical mistakes and curiosity of youth but there’s more awareness, honesty, reflection and self-belief. It builds genuine emotion, has a good amount of layers and its characters are strongly individual.
All of which is brought to life by Girls Girls Girls’ three wonderful leading ladies, Aamu Milonoff, Eleonoora Kauhanen and Linnea Leino. Each of them give a brilliant performance, they’re all different but easily find common emotion and struggle. Aamu Milonoff presents abandonment issues which translate into difficulty with commitment and she captures that intense vulnerability in a way that’s incredibly moving. It’s a great example of teens trying to be more mature when that’s not their job and need to let their emotions out. There’s a similar vibe with Linnea Leino’s Emma, so focused on one goal that she’s forgotten how to have a life outside of it and can’t communicate her want to create a new balance and the feeling of guilt when splitting her time. Milonoff and Leino have a superb chemistry, it’s touching to watch and feels effortless. Eleonoora Kauhanen rounds out the key trio with a touch of naivety and a strive for connection, as well as bringing a lighter presence. It creates a strong balance for the film as a whole, with all three adding different qualities to the atmosphere.
Alli Haapasalo’s directorial style leans on a darker, richer palette which brings out a good amount of depth. It adds an extra edge to what could have otherwise been a simple drama, helping draw out the intensity of its emotion. It has a keen youthfulness but balances that with its sincerity. It’s paced extremely well to not rush but keep moving forward. There’s also a quality to it that feels timeless, choosing to shoot it in Academy ratio makes a big difference, especially added to that there’s no key focus on technology which can often eclipse modern films following teenagers. The only outlier is its use of music, which can tend to overwhelm scenes rather than enhance them, not quite blending in.
Girls Girls Girls is sincere and touching but also surprisingly sweet. Led by a fantastic trio in Aamu Milonoff, Eleonoora Kauhanen and Linnea Leino who perfectly capture a blend of friendship and first love with naivety, intensity and bundles of emotion. It’s also a lot of fun to watch, together Alli Haapasalo, Ilona Ahti and Daniela Hakulinen have created an elevated teen film. Instead of focusing on messy conflict, it strives to create a story of building healthy relationships, not only with others but with your own mental health, to also build self-confidence and to ask for what you want. It’s another steppingstone to the evolution of teenage dramas and coming of age films, creating more authenticity and realism.