A nicely produced effort, Girls Don’t Cry (★★★☆☆) is a gentle, somewhat predictable road trip/coming-of-age-and-out story that is more cute than memorable.
Riffing on a familiar theme when it comes to teenagers in need of a drama, Ele finds life at home with her mother and her new boyfriend intolerable.
When her mother decides to sell the family camper van — a source of iconic family holidays before the death of Ele’s father, Ele decides it’s time for a rebellious, but also nostalgic, road trip. Tagging along is the somewhat mysterious Romanian Mia, a school cleaner with a complicated life.
Needless to say, the road trip brings adventures and some catharsis to both.
Although the backstories of each woman — delivered in flashbacks — raises their personal stakes during the road trip, front and center is their evolving relationship, and director Andrea Zuliani does a good job of pacing the past and present.
That said, although some may find the nascent romance cute, it does feel more pretty than real. For example, Ele is hardly a wallflower: surely she would have had something to say the morning after?
Of the two leads, Emma Benini’s Ele is certainly mesmerizing and does much with the challenges of delivering a not overly mature 19-year-old. But, despite a troubling past, her character is more descriptive than developed.
The real star turn here is Anastasia Doaga as Mia, embodying a survivor whose heart has been broken almost — but not quite — too many times. Doaga’s woman is exceedingly well-crafted: suggesting a natural self-possession that finally unravels with an utterly convincing despair.
If the film feels, in some ways, like it started with the idea of a lesbian romance and the plot came later, Doaga’s performance is so good, it makes it easy to forgive the thinnish narrative.
Indeed, when paired with Yuri Casagrande Conti — playing her boyfriend Radu with scene-stealing charism and dimension — one can’t help but hope they will go on to the kind of fully developed drama deserving of their talents.
Ultimately, though attractively and skillfully shot, Girls Don’t Cry is more of a starting point for director Zuliani than a fully formed project.
Girls Don’t Cry plays exclusively in the Virtual Festival through Oct. 29.
Reel Affirmations 2023 includes the Virtual Film Festival, providing online access to 43 films for those film lovers who cannot attend the festival in person, with a viewing window from Oct. 23 to 29.
Browse the full Virtual Festival catalog here.
Buy Virtual Festival passes here.
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