Review: Girls Can’t Swim

Girls Can’t Swim

Yes they can swim, the title is merely Anne-Sophie Birot’s off-handed way of saying girls find adolescence difficult to wade through. As played by rising sex pot Isild Le Besco, 15-year-old Gwen struts her stuff in and around the beach town of Brittany as if auditioning for Roger Vadim. Prone to unexplained emotional outbursts, Gwen defends her right to kiss, tease, and fuck every boy in town despite her daddy’s misgivings. Somewhere on the main land, Gwen’s best friend loses the father she never knew. Rather than don black for the funeral, Lise (Karen Alyx) sports flippers and goggles for the occasion. I guess she really wants to go swimming. Lise’s mother wishes that her children could be more invisible, that they not look so much like her husband; it’s the film’s most earnest moment. Girls Can’t Swim is less concerned with the friendship of its two female leads than it is with parading its sexual shocks. Once the girls do meet up in Brittany, Lise becomes seemingly infatuated with her best friend’s sexual liberation. The dopey Lise confuses one of Gwen’s too-close-for-comfort sexapades as an open invitation for a menage-a-trois. By now, Birot has single-mindedly equated Lise’s confused sexual awakening with a burgeoning daddy complex so it’s not long before the film’s narrative contrivances are exposed. All together now: Girl with daddy hates daddy, girl who never knew daddy loses her daddy, girl who never knew daddy hits on other girl’s daddy, and girl with daddy loses daddy. Oh, the irony.

 Cast: Isild Le Besco, Karen Alyx, Pascale Bussieres, Pascal Elso, Marie Riviere, Yelda Reynaud, Sandrine Blancke, Julien Cottereau, Dominique Lacariere  Director: Anne-Sophie Birot  Screenwriter: Anne-Sophie Birot, Christophe Honoré  Distributor: Wellspring  Running Time: 101 min  Rating: NR  Year: 1999  Buy: Video

Ed Gonzalez

Ed Gonzalez is the co-founder of Slant Magazine. His writing has also appeared in The Village Voice and The Los Angeles Times. He’s a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, the Critics Choice Association, and the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association.

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