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#TIFF18 Review: Girl

September 17, 2018

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Lara (Victor Polster) is a teen girl in Belgium who is working hard to realize her dreams of becoming a ballerina, having been accepted into a prestigious ballet academy. She also happens to be transgender, having been born in a male body, and is in the process of chemically and surgically transitioning into a body that matches how she identifies.

There aren’t a lot of huge plot developments in Girl, with director Lukas Dhont instead employing a very observational approach to the way that he follows the characters, showing the struggles that Lara faces as she tries to find her place in the world. This also means that the film shows some incredibly intimate and uncomfortable personal moments, even depicting how Lara binds her genitals before practise, but it’s done in a respectful way that thankfully doesn’t feel exploitative.

Although there has been some criticism over the fact that a non-trans actor was cast in the role, Victor Polster delivers a respectful and believable portrayal, while also impressively taking on the physical challenges that come with the character. A trained dancer himself, he is well equipped to bring the dancing sequences to the screen with at times gruelling authenticity.

The film is especially touching in the way that it portrays Lara’s relationship with her single dad (Arieh Worthalter), who is depicted as a very supportive presence in her life, even if he naturally worries for her well-being and if she is moving too quickly to pursue surgery. This is an engaging drama that sensitively explores issues of gender identity and belonging in a way that feels real.

Victor Polster in Girl

Public Screenings:

Saturday, September 8th – 3:30 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox

Sunday, September 9th – 6:00 PM at Scotiabank Theatre

Sunday, September 16th – 12:00 PM at Scotiabank Theatre

The 2018 Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 6th to 16th.

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