TL;DR – A deeply uncomfortable film exploring the over-sexualisation and control over young girls.
Score – I am honestly not sure how to score this film
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Cuties (Mignonnes) Review –
If there has been one film in recent times that has been entirely destroyed reputationally before it even came out it was the film we are reviewing today. When Netflix released the promotional material, it was demonised across the internet, and from the excerpts Netflix decided to choose it is not hard to see why. The director was hounded off Twitter and labelled an exploitive filmmaker and more. However, those who had seen the film already made it clear that the framing used in the promotional material was not representative of the final product. Well, today we see which is right as we explore the film now it has had its official release.
So to set the scene, we open in on Amy Diop (Fathia Youssouf Abdillahi) as her family makes a new home in France after moving from Senegal. She is trapped between two worlds, the conservative world of her mother Mariam (Maïmouna Gueye), and the more liberal world she has moved into in France. She becomes drawn to some of her classmates who dance in ways that she has never seen (even if they are just the worst in every other way). These crashing worlds come into even more relief when she discovers that her father has not joined them yet because he has taken a second wife.
There is a deep current of sadness that permeates throughout the film. We see it first when Mariam is forced to save face by her Auntie (Mbissine Therese Diop) and call everyone to tell them that her husband is married a second wife. Amy is desperate to find her place in the world with her traditional family on the one side and her ‘friends’ on the other. She is trying to find her future at a time when she is the most vulnerable. Even at their moment of triumph, it is framed in layers of grief as a haunting woman’s vocal sings over the top. This is a film that is dealing with a lot of complicated subjects, making a difficult film to watch at times. The first is the over-sexualisation of girls specifically but also young people in general. The whole world is dumping this on them and discarding the consequences of this. While this is the main issue at play, we also explore body dysmorphia, dangers of social media, the role of social hierarchies, and the interface between traditional and liberal societies.
It is this clash of cultural norms that is on clear display, and it is the main area that Amy is trying to navigate throughout the film. She is trying to find acceptance somewhere and doing everything possible to be in that space. Her traditional Senegalese family continues to support what is clearly a traumatic experience for her mother smashing a divide between Amy and her standard support mechanisms. So she tries to find a different support group through her pears, only to walk into a petty minefield of social politics. When watching similar films like this, there is usually an agenda at play, ‘oh the rebellious child discovers their rebellious nature and comes back home’, or ‘oh the traditional child escapes the pressure of conformity to be their own person’. Here we get a film that is free from those restrictions and champions and condemns both sides of her life.
In the end, do we recommend Cuties? Look, I am not sure if I can. The film is dealing with a very raw and challenging subject, subjects that need to be explored. However, it makes it a hard movie to watch, and I am not sure I could recommend to people to sit down and watch it. Though it is a good case study in how a marketing department can completely destroy a film’s reputation by not understanding the product they are marketing. In this case not understanding it so badly that they marketed it in a way that the film is explicitly speaking out against.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Cuties
Directed by – Maïmouna Doucouré
Written by – Maïmouna Doucouré
Music by – Niko Noki
Cinematography by – Yann Maritaud
Edited by – Stéphane Mazalaigue & Mathilde Van de Moortel
Production/Distribution Companies – france·tvcinéma Bien ou Bien Productions & Netflix·
Starring – Fathia Youssouf Abdillahi, Medina El Aid, Esther Gohourou, Ilanah Cami-Goursolas, Myriam Hamma, Maïmouna Gueye, Mbissine Thérèse Diop, Demba Diaw, Mamadou Samaké, Bilel Chegrani, Canelle Brival, Jean-Paul Castro, Hakim Ferhi, Michael Perez & Bass Dhem
Rating – Australia: MA15+;