Those who say, "I wish I was young," probably don't remember just how painful being young can be. French female filmmaker Celine Sciamma remembers, and she brings the hopes and pains of early teenagers to the screen in her 2007 directorial debut. Water Lilies is an uncomfortable movie to watch as an adult. Teenagers are sometimes naked and often sexual; two things American try to avoid in our mainstream depictions of 14 and 15 year old girls. However, though Water Lilies is about young female sexuality, the young females are not sexualized. At least, not by Celine Sciamma's camera. It's an important distinction, because the film will be uncomfortably familiar to anyone who remembers their first friends, first loves, first lusts, and the heartbreaks that come from each.
Water Lilies circles around the awakening of two girls from the French suburbs. Anne (Louise Blachere) is a big-boned synchronized swimmer whose weight and clumsiness put her in the lowest ranks of the team, socially and competitively. Her best friend is Marie (Pauline Acquart), a slight, mousy tomboy who says little but watches everything. They play with Happy Meals with toy spyglasses and spit water at each other for fun like kids do, but they're also beginning to develop feelings: Anne for Francois, the captain of the boy's water polo team, and Marie for the star of the synchronized swimmers, a beautiful girl with a bad reputation named Floriane (Adele Haenel). Unlike Marie and Anne, Floriane understands what desire is, or at least how to recognize when someone desires her. She's known since the adult swim coach started chasing her around the room. What Floriane doesn't know is what she herself wants. [More...]