Preeti Panigrahi and Kani Kusruti riding a moped in Sundance Film Festival's Girls Will be Girls | Agents of Fandom

Sundance 2024: ‘Girls Will Be Girls’ Review – A Profoundly Heartfelt Mother-Daughter Story

Writer/Director Shuchi Talati shines in her directorial debut about coming-of-age stories that span all ages.

Coming-of-age stories generally follow a similar formula in films — a young boy or girl starts to grow up, act out, potentially fall in love, and discover who they truly are in the vast, magnificent world. Girls Will Be Girls, while similar in theory, is exceedingly individualistic. Mira, played wondrously by Preeti Panigrahi in her first outing, is the first head prefect at her boarding school. Astute, attentive, and bashful, she juggles her heightened school responsibilities with her sudden interest in Sri (Kasev Binoy Kiron), an outgoing boy in her class.

Mira’s journey of sexual awakening, both individual and with a companion, blossoms with Sri. They talk about sex, explore each other’s bodies through supple touches, and lustfully gaze across the school classroom at one another. In roaming through this new world, it’s apparent that Sri is much more attuned to where to go. After a secret romp in the woods, Mira is left feeling hurt that Sri knew exactly what to do while she did not.

It’s through this adolescent viewpoint that Girls Will Be Girls rings true to its name on multiple levels. The downtrodden, destructive societal assumption that girls inherently take on the bulky burden of blaming themselves for not being good enough is just one slice of the whole pie.

‘Girls Will Be Girls’ Reminds That Coming-of-Age Isn’t Linear

Mira’s mother Anila (Kani Kusruti) is enchanted with her own coming-of-age story. She encourages Sri to come over to study with Mira, even offering him dinner time after time, as she finds his presence seductive in its own right. While not sexual, Anila is drawn to the attention that Sri can offer; the conversation that he so effortlessly partakes in makes her feel like a kid again.

With her husband and Mira’s father mostly absent during the film, Anila’s own journey to individuality and confidence intersects with Mira’s through a common ally in Sri. She lives vicariously through Mira and her growing up — something she never truly got to experience as she got married at a young age, now realizing the missed life she so deeply yearns for.

Writer/director Shuchi Talati pens a script that is patient and subtle in its use of silence and glancing looks from one character to another. The movie is at peace with itself — shot in a cozy 4:3 aspect ratio that allows each character and their expressions to fill the entirety of the frame. And while the pace is on the slower side, it uses that to its advantage to effortlessly portray loving, tender moments of realization, whether with Mira, Anila, or both.

Mira’s continuous battle of her head and heart pulls at what many teens find so challenging about growing up. With a melodic, windy score guiding each scene, it’s easy to get lost in the intricacies of the two-pronged story. Indian culture and its ingrained sexism and distance are directly, and complexly, identified. One can’t help but feel the same pushing and pulling Mira feels in trying to unlock which character’s growth is more important and that can — and does — muddle the overall project.

At its heart, Girls Will Be Girls is a story about a mother and a daughter. Two sides of the same coin that are both exploring similar yet tremendously opposite coming-of-age journeys. One is driven by puppy love that wants to be big-dog love, and the other is a longing to revert to the days of innocence and that delightfully heralded puppy love. Everybody has a key and, whether by self-discovery or detection through those around you, that key can unlock a stronger, more fearless future. And that’s exactly what this movie accomplishes.

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'Girls Will Be Girls' Sundance Film Festival 2024 Review

'Girls Will Be Girls' Sundance Film Festival 2024 Review
3.5 5 0 1
3.5 rating
Total Score

The Good

  • Preeti Panigrahi delivers a nuanced, emotional performance.
  • A heartwarming tale of the bond of a mother and daughter sits at its core.

The Bad

  • The pacing lulls easily zap any emotional connection to the film.
  • Ambiguous character motives can make it too deep for its own good.
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