She Monkeys (Apflickorna) (review)

She Monkeys Linda Molin Mathilda Paradeiser red light

I was struggling to figure out the literal and/or metaphoric reason for the tumbleweeds — yes, actual tumbleweeds — that roll lazily more than once through She Monkeys (in the original Swedish, Apflickorna). Are they reflections — if strained and preposterous ones — of the emotional desolation of its characters? And then I learned that writer (with Josefine Adolfsson) and director Lisa Aschan sees this as a modern Western. I don’t see a Western here — the tumbleweeds still seem ridiculous — and I’m still struggling to find reasons to do more than merely coolly appreciate, from an emotional distance, the disagreeably detached dissection of young girls’ sexuality on offer. Teen Emma (Mathilda Paradeiser) and her new acquaintance Cassandra (Linda Molin), members of an equestrian gymnastics team, are engaging an ugly push-and-pull of love and hate, dominance and submission, attraction and revulsion. Meanwhile, Emma’s little sister, Sara (Isabella Lindquist), is making new discoveries about the peculiar shame girls and women are subjected to regarding our bodies, which in turn leads her to the notion of her body as a weapon that might bend others to her will. Far too few films explore the lives and worries of girls at these precarious stages of childhood and adolescence, but nothing is illuminated or even intriguing here: this is a horrific tale of girls interacting with the world and with each other like life is a series of power trips and random cruelties. It’s a bitter, stalkerish view of the inner lives of girls that pushes boundaries to get nowhere.

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