“I had sex today…Holy shit!” 15-year-old Minnie Goetze declares, jubilant, flabbergasted, in the opening scene of ‘The Diary of a Teenage Girl’. She’s triumphant, in such a way I’ve only ever seen portrayed by a boy after successfully securing his long sought after first sexual conquest be it in real life or on the big screen. A young girl expressing her sexuality without regret, guilt or as an act of true love? I was already intrigued…

Wide-eyed and raging with hormones and insecurity, Minnie — beautifully and bravely played by the TV turned film star Bel Powley — talks into a cassette recorder in the privacy of her bedroom, sharing her deepest secrets and yearnings with no one but herself, documenting her voyage into adulthood.

Teenage girls are still something mysterious in our society and having those words in a film title guarantees that most men, boys and women will write it off as a teeny-bopper movie; a kind of Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging for the Instagram loving hipster generation. Don’t let the title of ‘The Diary of a Teenage Girl’ put you off from watching this sun-drenched sexual odyssey set in the seventies – it’s a must see for all.

Directed by Marielle Heller, Minnie Goetze (Bel Powley) is longing for love, acceptance and a sense of purpose in the world. Minnie begins a complex love affair with her mother’s (Kristen Wiig) 35 year old boyfriend, “the handsomest man in the world,” Monroe Rutherford (Alexander Skarsgård). What follows is a sharp, funny and provocative account of one girl’s sexual and artistic awakening.

The lines are blurred when it comes to Minnie’s inappropriate love affair. Monroe is not a predator, preying on his virginal victim. Equally, Minnie is not a precocious Lolita-imitator manipulating her unsuspecting faux paternal figure. Instead, it seems like a mistake, a pretty huge one, and of course an illegal one, but still a mistake. ‘Diary’ looks at what it means to be an adult, how adults justify their actions and how our actions are sometimes based on something innate in the human condition, not just the brashness of hormone-fuelled teens.

There are tender and awkward moments that reveal Minnie’s innocence in her adult relationship with an older man, but also, moments highlight Monroe’s childlike attitude making him sometimes pale in comparison to the woman that Minnie is metamorphosing into before our eyes.

Minnie’s sexual desire is refreshing to see on screen. It’s not there for the titillation of the audience, neither are her nude scenes – instead it’s there to finally highlight the fact that films keep glossing over, female sexuality exists – and not just for the purpose of finding love and happily ever after.

‘Diary’ is reminiscent of ‘Blue is the warmest colour’ in its frank portrayal of female sexuality and self-discovery, although here it is concerned with heterosexuality and is a lot messier, yet with none of the heartache of Blue. Realisation that sex doesn’t equate to love, that having a man love you is not validation is laden with feminist ideals that will no doubt provide a bit of empowerment to 2015’s female-teenage population.

From first time director Marielle Heller this coming of age tale has been carefully but not fully extracted from Phoebe Gloeckner’s trippy graphic novel of the same name. Amidst the brutal honesty about navigating the early throes of adult life the film is awash with beautiful psychedelic embellishment, via animator Sara Gunnarsdottir. Minnie’s radical, sexual and semi-autobiographical doodles spring alive on our screens, sometimes fully taking over the real with the fantasy. The cartoons add to the seventies-filter that nostalgically wash over the frames. The cartoons also add insight into our protagonist’s creative talent and aspirations as well as her image of herself and the world around.

Coming of age tales often feature girls but are never specifically about them, and when they are, they fail to capture any truth – until now that is. The best part is in fact, Minnie’s teenage years are not so far removed from everyone’s pursuit of teenage kicks in one way or another. In the preface to the book, Gloeckner explains, “in many ways it is about her, but it’s also about the reader – for the book to have real meaning she must be all girls…she must be anyone.” This is what makes the book, and now also the film work so well in such a poignant manner. Minnie is teenage you and me, but, told in her very own specific way.

The film honours Minnie’s sexuality without exploiting it or her. Her internal monologue peppered with phrases like: ‘I get distracted sometimes, overwhelmed by my all-consuming thoughts about sex and men… I just want to be touched” are a beautiful insight and exploration into sex from a female perspective. I cannot think of another film that does this in such a candid yet understated way. She’s not really in love [although naively at first questions if she is], she’s not a nympho, she’s not turning to a wild lifestyle to escape some terrible life event – she’s just an ordinary teenage girl embarking into adulthood.

The closing line from Minnie, ‘This is for all the girls when they have grown’ is a lovely and truthful reminder that her story is something that everyone can relate to.

DVD Review: The Diary Of A Teenage Girl
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About The Author

Emily Stockham

Emily is from South London and has a degree in English Literature. Emily is a marketing assistant who writes about films and music in her spare time. Horror and grindhouse are her thing - although she will happily watch anything if it means a trip to the cinema.