“Amy, an 11-year-old girl, joins a group of dancers named “the cuties” at school, and rapidly grows aware of her burgeoning femininity – upsetting her mother and her values in the process.” -IMDB
Damn it, France! Not only do they have a beautiful language, delicious food, and wine that makes you seriously consider selling all of your possessions, moving to Bordeaux, and trying your luck at becoming a sommelier, but now they have another accolade to add to their impressive national CV. Let me clarify….
Within the last ten years, there have been a number of beautifully and delicately handled coming-of-age films coming out of France which focus particularly on young women and particularly on young women of color. The first was Girlhood which I unfortunately missed out on when it was released in 2014, but was able to watch during quarantine. The second was Mignonnes/Cuties (since we live in the good old US of A, we’ll go ahead and refer to the film as Cuties from here on out). This film was the subject of controversy upon its release earlier this year due to the depictions of adolescents in sexually suggestive situations; however, as with anyone who takes the time to get “outraged” by anything, these viewers seemed to have been missing the entire point.
Cuties focuses on Amy, a Senegalese pre-teen who lives with her devout Muslim mother and two younger brothers in France. Her father is missing from the film, as he has remained in Senegal and decided to take a second wife before rejoining the family in France. Amy, reeling from this paternal betrayal, becomes interested in her classmate/neighbor, who is in a provocative dance group called the Cuties with three additional classmates. Although the group is initially repulsed by Amy and bullies her, they eventually warm to her, especially upon learning that she possesses unexpected dance skills. Thus begins Amy’s journey, one that every teenage girl witnesses and/or experiences: the battle of society to define your womanhood either as the Madonna or the whore. I very much appreciate that this film seemingly criticizes not only internet culture, but also conservative religion, which also forces a strict idea of womanhood (and subsequently sex) on young girls. These girls try to embrace their “womanhood” in the way that the media and culture their exposed to tells them they should, through sex. However, the film continuually and poignantly reminds us that these oversexualized “women” are still very much children.
I will say, although I think the outrage is unwarranted, this is a difficult movie to watch. It helped having read articles about the actors in the film being well taken care of during production; however, it is still incredibly hard to watch eleven-year-olds being sexualized. Honestly, that is why I gave this film 9 out of 10 Claire Bears, because I understand that this movie maybe too difficult for some people, especially those with children, to watch. But if you can get through these difficult scenes, then you’ll find Cuties to be an important, timely, honest, respectful, empowering, and stunningly beautiful movie.
Rating: 8 out of 10 Claire Bears
If you like this movie, you should also see: Girlhood, Booksmart
With: Fathia Youssouf, Medina El Aidi-Azouni, Esther Gohorou
Directed By: Maimouna Doucoure