Review: Girl Picture | Sundance 2022

Score:  B+

Director:  Alli Haapasalo

Cast:  Oona Airola, Aamu Milonoff, Linnea Leino

Running Time:  100 min

Rated:  NR

Being a teenage girl is no picnic, which is why so many films choose high school students as their main characters. What’s more classic than a coming-of-age tale? Girl Picture follows two teenage best friends as they navigate love, dreams, and high school. It’s a well-done, modern take on the genre.

Mimmi (Aamu Milonoff) and Sanna (Oona Airola) are Finnish teenagers trying to get through high school. After school, they work at a smoothie shop in the mall, teased by their well-off classmates. Everything shifts for Mimmi when she meets professional ice skater Emma (Linnea Leino) and the two quickly fall for one another. Meanwhile, Sanna feels unmoored in the dating world, going out with lots of guys but unable to find physical pleasure with any of them. 

The film is structured into three parts: the first, second, and third Fridays. It seems like a lot of emotional ground to cover in three weeks, so it’s unclear if the film takes place over three consecutive Fridays or three Fridays over a period of months. At the same time, things can change quickly in the world of a teenager, so it could very well cover three short weeks. The editing style contributes to this rushed feeling as some scenes transition from loud songs to complete silence jarringly fast, often in the middle of a lyric, forcing the audience to rely on our characters to anchor us to the story.

Mimmi gets the traditional “first love” storyline and it’s refreshing that it’s utterly unimportant that she falls in love with another girl. None of their parents or friends have any problems with it. The relationship issues are universal. Mimmi resists commitment and vulnerability after losing her mother’s attention to a second family while Emma tries to figure out if figure skating is still her passion. It’s a tender portrait of first love, even if it’s clear that the relationship may not make it past graduation.

Mimmi’s best friend Sanna has a less common storyline. With a blonde curly hair and dimples, Sanna has no problem getting attention from boys. But she’s still awkward around them and frustrated by sexual experiences that never result in pleasure for her. Mimmi insists she just has to practice, so Sanna sets out to gain some experience. It’s clear that something deeper is holding Sanna back and it’s fascinating to watch her try to piece together the emotional roadblocks on her path to sexual pleasure.

Another less common aspect of Girl Picture (for American audiences at least) is that it’s set in Finland. The country feels like its own character with its cold grey light illuminating everything. The wardrobe is fantastic and the fashion sense is innovative as Finland necessitates varied knits, coats, and other cold weather wear. While the country provides a moody atmosphere, the characters never say anything too culturally-specific, keeping it friendly to an international audience.

Girl Picture is not here to revolutionize the coming-of-age drama but is an excellent and modern example of the genre. Its three leads are likable enough to hook its audience into caring about three very eventful weeks in their lives. Coming from a country not usually seen on the big screen, it’s yet another example that the pains of growing up are an international experience.


About Katie Anaya

Katie Anaya