School is a hothouse of emotion, especially for 17-year-olds who tackle relationships as if love were a Rubik’s cube, trying new combinations, twisting, and turning until something clicks.
Everybody wants something from Paula — whether it’s sex, love, or simply attention. Good girl Charlotte keeps eyeing her across the classroom, hormonal Ronald and nerdy Tim both try to date her, frenemy Lilli alternates between insults and flirts, and Tangler the teacher wants to enter her in a French competition. Paula makes her own tentative moves towards Charlotte, only to run up against Michael, Charlotte’s dull boyfriend. Awkward attempts to connect, missed signals, fantasies, heartbreak, and even helpless rage — this film captures adolescence in all its hormonal glory.
Writer-director Monja Art’s debut takes a relaxed view of these goings on, her tranquil camera and beautifully composed images showing the scope of the rural environment and capturing quiet moments as well as drama: a solitary swim, domestic chores, and a late-night discussion of Wuthering Heights and marriage.
Refreshingly, Paula’s unspoken but obvious preference for girls over boys is barely remarked on. When a woman teacher is assigned to chaperone Paula and Tangler to the French competition, Paula notes that the school worries about possible impropriety between her and her male teacher, but not between her and the woman teacher — and the woman teacher laughs and agrees. As this film demonstrates, whether one is gay, straight, bi, or questioning, 17 is an age best observed from the comfort of a theater seat.
— MONICA NOLAN
- Website: Facebook
- Language: In German with English subtitles
- Premiere Status: West Coast