Every few years, an indie filmmaker steps into the limelight and presents a film that blows the big Hollywood blockbusters out of the water. It looks like the next great indie is without a doubt going to be The Diary of a Teenage Girl . Directed and written by Marielle Heller, this film takes a look at a young female artist named Minnie (Bel Powley) living in San Francisco in the '70s and figuring out what it means to be a sexual being. Bustle received exclusive video from the film, and it is a powerful and haunting clip. Minnie walks through the streets of San Fran pondering everything from suicide, to sex, to art, and it is a blur of everything that made teenagehood so horribly poetic. As she traverses a grey and foggy city, her colorful drawings follow her around, ask tough questions, and guide her through the complicated nature of being a 17-years-old girl.
Movies like The Diary of a Teenage Girl don't come around very often, so this is an important one for women to see. In the film, Minnie has an affair with her mother (Kristen Wiig) Charlotte's boyfriend Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård) and the experience opens up all of the wonderful and confusing things that happen when sex becomes a part of life. It doesn't glorify teenage sex, it simply says: "This is a complex young woman who made a choice and now she's experiencing life as a person who has sex." It's rare that audiences see such a narrative on the big screen. There are dozens of films about teenage boys trying to have sex in high school — Superbad, American Pie, Risky Business, et. al — and those, I would say, glorify teenage sex. But no one really bats an eye over it because, well, it's all about the boys. The Diary of a Teenage Girl is different; it's a young woman exercising agency over her body and desiring sex... and she takes it seriously.
Not only is this film special because it says that yes, young women think about sex and experience it, but it does so in a smart and honest way. Most films about teenage sex are either comedies or very dark dramas. It's either Can't Hardly Wait or The Virgin Suicides. Young women are sometimes treated like goals (I HAD SEX!) without any real human depth. There was of course Juno, but even then, the main character got pregnant and had to go through a very painful experience of giving the child up for adoption. The Diary of a Teenage Girl comes in and debunks these tired stereotypes in an artful and beautiful way. In the trailer, Minnie exclaims that she had sex and she's "so happy." Of course things aren't clear and easy for Minnie after that, but a least there is a movie that shows another side of sex.
This goes to show what happens when women make films about women. The Diary of a Teenage Girl is based on the graphic novel by Phoebe Gloeckner, and it is a poignant look on what it's like to discover your sexual self while abandoning childhood and walking towards adulthood. It's messy, scary, joyous, and very, very real. Take a look at the exclusive clip from the film:
As the clip shows, there's also so much more to Minnie than her desire to be touched. She's an artist who struggles with her work and finding meaning in life. Those teenage years are fragile and overwrought. Everything is live or die when you're 17. Even though I'm 11 years older than Minnie, I still remember what all of that felt like, and this clip felt like a swift kick to the gut. It also made me happy to be a little bit older and a little bit more enlightened.
The Diary of a Teenage Girl hits theaters August 7.
Image: Caviar Films