Directors love to churn out coming-of-age films, seeing them as almost an easy target. It’s not surprising since it’s such an explorative subject with endless amount of resources and themes to choose from to represent the generations of our future. Whether it’s the quintessential American High School comedies from American Pie to Mean Girls – or the characterisations of classic eighties archetypes in The Breakfast Club and Fast Times At Ridgemont High. Most coming-of-age films are a journey of self-acceptance and a desperate desire to find one’s identity. However, we as a human race are blessed with so many portrayals of what it means to become an adult even when the voice isn’t so definitive…
Here are 5 coming-of-age films in no particular order, that have broken constructs in stereotypes and strayed from the Hollywood script.
1. The Tribe (2014) by Myroslav Slaboshpytskyi
Set in Ukraine and filmed entirely in sign language – the protagonist, Sergey enrols in a boarding school for the deaf. Ruled by a hierarchal gang with backdoor operations in robberies, prostitution and violence, Sergey is initiated into the hard group and falls deeper into their cut-throat community. However, the most surprisingly disturbing part of the film is the fact there is no score or soundtrack backing these savage scenes – sending chills to the spine when a woman aids a girl in a DIY abortion.
2. The Virgin Suicides (1990) by Sofia Coppola
All hail Sofia Coppola winning the Best Director Award for The Beguiled this year at Cannes Film Festival and making her the second woman to ever win. Her incredible representations of females in society have been praised throughout the years coming as no surprise that she directed the critically acclaimed Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. The dreamy noir film follows the lives of the beautiful Lisbon sisters from the eyes of the neighbourhood boys that reside opposite to their house. They worship them as Goddesses and view them as untouchable creatures whilst fantasising what could possibly be in their minds. Sound familiar?
3. The Diary Of A Teenage Girl (2015) by Marielle Heller
15 year old Minnie lives in 1970’s San Fransisco and she’s not your predictable fair-haired beauty. She is a real girl who tries to act like an adult but her character quickly falls through the cracks and we realise she is just a child. This film follows the naked emotions of a teenage girl’s sexual experiences with an older man, in this case – her mother’s boyfriend. Heller cleverly uses the fantasia of animations to give Minnie such an expressive voice as she winds through problems all teenage girls have and ends up loving herself completely.
4. Raw (2016) by Julia Ducournau
Written and directed by Julia Ducournau – the French-Belgian film is not for the faint hearted. Raw is a real metaphor for the brutal trials we go through to discover who we really are – even if it takes eating your sister’s finger. Justine is seduced in an almost erotic relationship with human skin when she betrays her vegetarian self, and becomes initiated in a hazing ritual at her first week of veterinary school. Forced to eat a piece of animal organ and she begins to battle her hunger with isolation before realising she’s not alone in her hanker for human flesh. Cannibalism aside – Justine goes through what every student has in their mind – fears of not being able to make friends or succeed academically, or even leaving school as a different person.
5. Moonlight (2016) by Barry Jenkins
Last but not least, our film of the year has given us so much to talk about. Told in three defining chapters in the life of a young black boy growing up in Miami. Like Raw, the surface is very different to what is being told underneath. Yes, he is fighting his sexuality, but it is deeply about the journey of his manhood and keeping hold of his identity. Barry Jenkins has told this story so softly and delivers spectacularly on being a not-so-typical coming-of-age film and as a visually striking portrayal of masculinity.