Lukas Dhont’s expressive first feature follows a young girl, assigned male at birth, as she struggles to realize her dreams of becoming a ballerina, all the while desperate for her body to reflect her true identity.

Discovery

Girl

Lukas Dhont

Fifteen-year-old Lara dreams of becoming a ballerina. Assigned male at birth, Lara has to overcome more than blistered, bloody feet to realize her dream. With remarkable control and sensitivity, Belgian first-time helmer Lukas Dhont brings trans experiences to the fore with a coming-of-age story that explores the psychological and physical journey of transitioning from adolescent to adult.

Recently admitted on a probationary basis to one of Belgium's most prestigious ballet academies, Lara approaches her dancing much as she does her life, with meticulous, relentless, even punishing discipline. Each day begins with stretching to improve her flexibility and taping down her penis to hide the one thing that, in her eyes, betrays her female identity. Those close to Lara already see a girl. Even in the heightened body-conscious world of ballet, her transition goes practically unnoticed. But, desperate for her outer body to reflect her inner self, Lara grows impatient — with hormone therapy that yields minimal results, with her psychotherapist's constant need to assess her emotional state, and with her father's awkward, if loving, reassurances. While Lara demonstrates bravery beyond her years, she's not interested in being brave; she just wants to be.

Though conflict is ever present in Girl, Dhont's mastery lies in his decision to focus on the internal, rather than the external, making the moments when it escapes to the surface all the more affecting. His storytelling, featuring a deceptively modest script (co-written with Angelo Tijssens) inspired by a true story, favours the visual over dialogue, highlighting the incredibly expressive and physical principal performance of Victor Polster. Through Lara's exquisite, diligent path to self-acceptance, Dhont questions the possibility of perfection; as a filmmaker, he is well on his way to achieving it.

KERRI CRADDOCK

This film has been selected by the TIFF Next Wave Committee for the next generation of film lovers.

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