She Monkeys/Apflickorna


Directed by Lisa Aschan. Starring Mathilda Paradeiser, Linda Molin Club, IFI, Dublin, 83 min

WANNABE equestrian gymnast Emma is a painfully shy adolescent when she tries out for the local vaulting team. Happily, the blonder, sunnier Cassandra takes the younger, less confident horsewoman under her wing for instruction in dressage, sniggering at boys and ill-defined fumbling.

In common with most Sapphic crush movies, we’re not sure where sporty competition leaves off and sexual desire begins. An awkward romantic subplot featuring Emma’s pre-teen sister makes for even more painful viewing. Soon enough a horse figurine gets smashed in a poignantly emblematic way. The titular simians, meanwhile, are nowhere in sight.

Hang on. Didn’t we review a sensitive gay Swedish bildungsroman just last week? Sorry, our mistake. Last week’s sensitive gay bildungsroman was Belgian.

Kidult entertainment used to be synonymous with Steven Spielberg, lightsabers and popcorn. Since the 1990s, however, a second, less populist form of kidult picture has emerged. These films feature youngsters but play only to adults. They tour arthouses. They’re funded by at least one, if not many, cultural agencies. They want to be Kes but good luck with that.

And that’s just dandy. Not every picture can be The Avengers. But somewhat troublingly, the coming- of-age drama has become a default setting around the festival circuit. Gender confusion and question marks over sexual identity are mandatory themes and, of course, lend some softcore LGBT marketability.

Hello, Pink Euro. If only the people for whom such issues are live and pertinent were old enough to fork over the admission charge. If only these ghettoised themes could sneak into the multiplex.

Director and co-writer Lisa Aschan’s film makes a solid addition to the burgeoning European sub-cultural subgenre. The cinematography is fuzzy and authentic. The wild track is twittering and pastoral. The exchanged glances are long and meaningful. Improvised dialogue adds to a sensibility that falls impressively between vulnerable and downright disturbed.

Sadly, for all the realism, She Monkeys seems to implode before the final act. The pace, never exactly breakneck, slows to a contemplative crawl. The narrative runs out of places to go. The earnestness of youth becomes oppressive. It’s called gay, people. Remember?