Water Lilies



Koch Lorber Films

NEW YORK -- This French feature takes a dispassionate look at teenage lesbianism and female rites-of-passage issues. The clinical approach, while short on emotional displays, successfully illustrates the anxiety, worry and cruelty experienced on the road to adulthood.

"Water Lilies," by debuting French director Celine Sciamma, should receive good notices at festivals but is probably too introspective and rootless to do much business in theaters stateside. Koch Lorber will release it in the U.S. after its American premiere at New York's New Directors, New Films Festival. The film also will play in the City of Lights, City of Angels festival in April in Los Angeles.

The story by Sciamma revolves around a group of suburban French teenage girls who belong to a synchronized swimming group. Marie (Pauline Acquart) is on the cusp of discovering her sexuality and hangs around the changing rooms hoping to convince the slightly older Floriane (Adele Haenel) to let her join the exhibition team. Floriane has problems of her own: The boy she's dating thinks that she's sexually experienced, but she's really a virgin. Floriane asks Marie to deflower her to disguise this fact, and, in a scene of carefully rendered awkwardness, she does. Soon the relationships between these characters change.

Sciamma delivers a precise piece of cinema. The script is pared down, shots and editing are neat and nothing is extraneous to character or story. She includes few adult characters in the film, and this successfully reflects the often closed world of adolescent relationships. Acquart, Haenel and Louise Blachere -- who plays Marie's tough but devoted best friend -- handle some very difficult sexual subject matter with commitment. Although a little too open-ended to be wholly satisfying, "Water Lilies" is still an excellent directorial debut.