Water Lilies

// 17 February 2008

Water Lilies is a French coming-of-age and coming out movie due to be released in the UK in a few weeks. I just saw a screener, and have to recommend that everyone goes to see it.

The film is set in an unremarkable suburb of Paris, and follows the interaction between three teenage girls – Marie, the main character in the film, falls painfully in love with Floriane, after seeing her compete in a synchronised swimming tournament. Then there is Marie’s friend Anne, who is in love with Floriane’s boyfriend – at one point she buries her bra in his backyard, in an attempt, we presume, to cast a sort of love spell.

So far, so teen movie (the director actually says in the press notes that “they are three characters that could have been in American Pie”). But what is really compelling about this film is the incredibly hard and honest look it takes at teenage sexuality.

For those put off by the mere mention of synchronised swimming, first-time director CĂ©line Sciamma explains:

It’s a 100% female sport, so it generates a position on femininity. It is a particularly difficult and athletic sport. The girls train 15 hours a week.. They have to have exceptional physical qualities. And it’s all for nearly nothing, because there is no possibility of making a career of it. It’s a sport that demands a lot of effort that has to be hidden. The girls have to make it look easy and smiling is compulsory. That’s what interested me. Synchronised swimmers are little soldiers made up like dolls.

Sciamma also does some interesting things with perspective – for example, there are purposefully no parents in the film, to force all the audience members to really relate to the girls. The characters of teenage boys are also not given speaking parts, so the perspective of the film is entirely that of the girls’ – a real shift from mainstream movie fare:

There is no male perspective or man’s vision in this film. Water Lilies does not take any line on what boys are like. They are side B for another film. They are not around. They don’t speak.

Check out the trailer here

Comments From You

Soirore // Posted 17 March 2008 at 12:56 pm

I agree with you totally. I have been wanting to see a teenage film made from a female perspective for SO long. Water Lilies is quite painfully true and joyfully uplifting at once. It is so beautiful. I’m glad too to see that reviews generally have been positive although the one from Sight and Sound wasn’t too great. It made me want to write in and ask whether the reviewer actually remembered being 15. I think she missed some of the key points and subtleties. I’m off to tell everyone I know to see this film….

Redheadinred // Posted 24 April 2008 at 5:20 am

I just saw this online! It’s amazing, like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It’s the best thing that there’s no parents and no male perspectives, because it REALLY does portray how teenage girls feel. The awkwardness of them, and the fact that there’s really no resolve… very, very compelling. So quiet and incredible.

Have Your say

To comment, you must be registered with The F-Word. Not a member? Register. Already a member? Use the sign in button below

Sign in to the F-Word

Further Reading

Has The F-Word whet your appetite? Check out our Resources section, for listings of feminist blogs, campaigns, feminist networks in the UK, mailing lists, international and national websites and charities of interest.

Write for us!

Got something to say? Something to review? News to discuss? Well we want to hear from you! Click here for more info

  • The F-Word on Twitter
  • The F-Word on Facebook
  • Our XML Feeds