Sundance 2022: “Girl Picture” Has Queer Romance, Figure Skating, and Plenty of Teen Angst

Very minor spoilers below for Girl Picture. 

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When we first meet Mimmi she’s beating up her classmate because the other girl cared too much about PE class. When we first meet Emma she’s beating up herself because she cares so much about figure skating.

Alli Haapasalo’s coming-of-age movie Girl Picture about three teen girls across three Friday nights is about the act of caring. Mimmi would have us believe she’s too cool to care about anything. She’s nothing like Emma, she’s nothing like her best friend and mall smoothie coworker Rönkkö who is desperate to experience love and sex.

The first Friday night brings Mimmi and Rönkkö to a house party. Rönkkö has a mediocre sexual encounter in the bathroom. Mimmi encounters Emma and has a magical gay evening. The rest of the movie is fairly split between Rönkkö’s heterosexual exploration and Mimi and Emma’s super gay romance. These stories are reminiscent of other coming-of-age movies, but the performances and specificity of the characters — as well as the clever structure — elevate the film as a whole. Aamu Milonoff is especially great as Mimmi, whether she’s letting herself fall in love or resisting with cruelty.

It’s hard to be someone who cares at an age when the opposite is encouraged. When Rönkkö tries to instruct a boy on how to better go down on her, he snaps saying it’s not sexy to receive an instruction manual. God forbid she actually want to enjoy the experience. And while Emma has spent her whole life dedicated to skating, she’s starting to feel a pull toward other teenage things like dating and partying. It’d be so much easier to let go of effort — to just give in to simpler pleasures.

Mimmi’s hesitance to commit, to be vulnerable, to care is connected to her family. The way this aspect of her character unravels is one of the strengths of the film as we learn what led this girl to be so quick to fight. Girl Picture doesn’t shy away from letting its young characters make mistakes and be unlikeable — some moments are truly cruel — while always being clear about what’s leading to these behaviors.

Because Milonoff and Linnea Leino who plays Emma have so much chemistry — and because I’m gay — I spent much of the film primarily interested in their storyline. Whether they’re dancing to Perfume Genius and Tove Styrke or having the best sex of their young lives, Haapasalo gives us a young couple that feels authentic and worthy of audience squealing. The ways in which these two girls differ feel like ways they can grow together.

But by the film’s end, I felt equally invested in Rönkkö. Eleonoora Kauhanen portrays her with an endearing eagerness and the development of her character surprised me. The film isn’t declarative about her identity — Rönkkö herself seems unsure — but I think people on the ace spectrum will relate to her story. Often films about teen girls exploring their sexualities bring them to a conclusion of figuring it out — it’s nice that this film allows Rönkkö to still be exploring. Her destination isn’t an orgasm, but rather the realization that maybe an orgasm isn’t actually what she cares about most.

Ultimately, all three girls must come to these conclusions. What do they care about most? How can they balance all the things they care about? And how can they find the bravery to express that care?

It’s a pleasure to spend three weekends with these girls, to witness their relationships and friendships. It’s a snapshot of a moment in time — for these three girls, for girlhood in general. It’s hard being 17 and 18. There’s so much to care about, there’s so much care we need.

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Drew Burnett Gregory

Drew is a Brooklyn-based writer, filmmaker, and theatremaker. She is a Senior Editor at Autostraddle with a focus in film and television, sex and dating, and politics. Her writing can also be found at Bright Wall/Dark Room, Cosmopolitan UK, Refinery29, Into, them, and Knock LA. She was a 2022 Outfest Screenwriting Lab Notable Writer and a 2023 Lambda Literary Screenwriting Fellow. She is currently working on a million film and TV projects mostly about queer trans women. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Drew Burnett has written 534 articles for us.


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