The Diary of a Teenage Girl: Sex, lies and cassette tapes
No one emerges from the emotional minefield of adolescence without bruises and scars. Adapted from Phoebe Gloeckner's 2002 graphic novel, The Diary of a Teenage Girl elegantly documents a 15-year-old's sprint through this minefield without judging the morally flawed characters, or condemning them for their provocative actions.
First-time writer-director Marielle Heller takes her aesthetic lead from the era (bell-bottomed 1976 San Francisco) and the visually arresting source material. She bleaches her colour palette to resemble a washed-out instamatic camera print and visualises the heroine's day dreams as animated sequences - courtesy of artist Sara Gunnarsdottir - that occasionally blossom within the live action.
These stylistic ambitions could have been Heller's downfall, but there's charm and purpose in the amalgamation of styles. The writer-director is aided by an excellent cast led by rising British star Bel Powley, who sports a flawless American accent and exposes herself - figuratively and literally - to the camera for close scrutiny.
"I had sex today," gushes 15-year-old Minnie Goetze (Powley), recording the first chapter of an audio diary onto cassettes, which she hides in a shoebox under her bed.
As Minnie details the loss of her virginity, we realise with a shudder that her first sexual partner is her mother's 35-year-old boyfriend, Monroe (Alexander Skarsgard). When Minnie's bohemian, drug-snorting mom (Kristen Wiig) finds out, Heller navigates the fallout with considerable flair and sensitivity.
The Diary Of A Teenage Girl is anchored by Powley's luminous portrayal of a bud waiting to bloom in the warmth of the California sun.
Wry humour cuts through the potentially sensationalist subject matter, allowing us to view the storm through Minnie's wide eyes before the tears well and fall.