In Tomboy, the French director, Céline Sciamma, has created a touching and sensitive film about children. Laure (Zoé Héran) and her family have just moved to a new town one summer. Laure decides to make the children she meets think she is a boy named Mikael. Her masquerade is highly successful at first. She becomes romantically involved with a girl, Lisa (Jeanne Disson), who thinks she is a boy. However, her imposture is inevitably revealed.

Tomboy is an examination of how ideas about gender shape children’s sense of identity, as well as their sense of self-importance. It also touches upon how children pick up homophobic ideas from society. After Laure’s real sex is revealed, a boy tells Lisa that it is “disgusting” for girls to kiss one another. Lisa feels compelled to agree, even though she kissed Laure in an earlier scene.

The story is told through a series of quiet vignettes involving either Laure playing with the other children or dealing with her family. The scene in which the other children confront Laure about her deception is emotionally wrenching, but Tomboy never veers into melodrama the way all too many films about childhood trauma do. I found all the child characters in this movie completely believable. Sciamma must be a highly skilled director to be able to get such unaffected performances from children. I highly recommend seeing this film.

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