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Original French poster.
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Cuties (French: Mignonnes) is a French coming-of-age drama film written and directed by Maïmouna Doucouré, this being her first feature film as a director.

It tells the story of Amy, an 11-year-old Muslim girl whose family originates from Senegal. She lives with her mother in one of the worst places in Paris. She follows in the footsteps of a girl named Angelica, who has a twerking dance group called "Cuties" ("Mignonnes" in French). From there, Amy is at a crossroads between following the libertine dance steps of this group and staying true to her family's customs and traditional values.

The film was presented at the Sundance Film Festival on January 23, 2020, and was theatrically released in France on August 19, 2020. Netflix acquired the rights to the film and released it outside France on September 9, 2020.

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This film contains examples of:

  • Adults Are Useless:
    • None of the parents of the girls in the film play a significant role. Amy's mother is the one who appears for the longest time.
    • The staff at their school are mostly ignorant if not outright passive with what the girls do and they only ever intervene if a full-on fight breaks out.
  • Age-Inappropriate Art:
    • Possibly the entire point as the girls are shown not only dancing way too maturely for kids of their age, but the songs they dance to also contain explicit lyrics, some of which are initiating sex with other people.
    • Amy watches a very sexualized video of black women in a music video that, of course, contains a lot of twerking towards the camera. She does this in the middle of an Islamic praying circle underneath her hijab so she could watch in secret.
  • Author Appeal: Like Maïmouna Doucouré's 2015 short film Maman(s), the film is about a child of Senegalese immigrant parents who grew up in France and the culture clashes that ensue from that upbringing in modern French society.
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  • Bilingual Bonus: Amy's older relatives would speak in Wolof from time to time and songs in Wolof are heard in the soundtrack (the ending credits music, for instance). Some prayers in untranslated Arabic are also heard.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Would be a Downer Ending without the Mind Screw element. Pretty much everything Amy was fighting for is ruined as both her relationship with the Cuties and the dance contest are lost. On top of that, she is further alienated from her family. Nevertheless, she seems to find some kind of peace after having lost so much.
  • Broken Aesop: A major problem with the declared intent of criticizing oversexualization of children in Western Culture is that the film kind of forgets to actually do that. There's no discernible antagonist pressuring the Cuties to incorporate sexual elements into their dance routines, like a stage parent or a sleazy producer. Furthermore, the girls never really suffer any consequences of their behavior, at least none that would actually befall children who engage in such practices (such as unwanted sexual attention). In fact, the only time their lewd dancing is plot-relevant, it ''helps them get out of trouble’'! The only real consequence the girls suffer, that being booed by the audience for their dance routine in the climax, seems to outwardly imply that Western culture does not approve of or condone children engaging in such sexualized behavior.
  • Children Are Innocent: A revolting example with one of the Cuties finding a used rubber and blowing on it like a balloon. When she was chastised by the other girls that it's a condom, she remains oblivious until they explain to her that people with AIDS use it, which itself is a precocious example by the girls who have misguided perceptions about sex, including that you could catch AIDS orally.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: Under Amy's perspective after witnessing a girl her age in racy clothing and dancing to provocative pop music in the laundry room, which spurs her curiosity in exploring her femininity (Netflix's words).
  • Contemptible Cover: When Netflix picked the film up for distribution, its marketing began to emphasize the hypersexualized aspect of the film, changing the poster of the film from a shot of the underaged cast walking down the streets with shopping bags and confetti, to a shot of the cast wearing revealing outfits and doing provocative poses, making the film look like the very kind of media it was making a statement about.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance:
    • It portrays France's rather loose attitudes towards sex and sexuality in general, even extending to minors, and the film criticizes them. There is a subversion in that the girls are openly booed by the crowd during the penultimate dance contest, including several African-French onlookers who do not take kindly to it at all.
    • The scenes with Amy's family, portraying a very conservative Muslim family and the women preaching their roles as a woman, including modesty and subservience to men, making Amy's eventual rebellion all the more shocking to them.
    • Amy's father marries a second wife in Senegal. Polygamy is illegal in France.
  • Dirty Kid: The Cuties to an unnerving degree, and they end up egging on the naive Amy to take a picture of a boy's private parts who was peeing in a urinal (she fails, obviously).
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Amy stabs a boy in the hand with a compass in retaliation for him smacking her in the butt.
  • Everyone Has Standards: As sexually mature as the Cuties were trying to act for their age, such as suggestively dancing, watching porn, and attempting to take pictures of a classmate's penis, they feel alienated by Amy's impulsive decision to take a picture of her genitals and posting it on the web. Even Coumba, who had been shown to be foul-mouthed and aggressive so far, felt uncomfortable about it and said she'd be severely punished by her mother if she ever tried something similar.
  • Exotic Extended Marriage: Amy's father marries another woman in Senegal, which makes her mother cry. Polygamy among Senegalese immigrants was already the subject of Maïmouna Doucouré's 2015 short Maman(s) (which translates as "Mother(s)").
  • First Period Panic: Amy doesn't know what to do when she has her first period in front of her parents.
  • Fish out of Water: Amy, when she gains an interest in the titular Cuties dance group who she wants to join but she is mocked for her homely clothes and "flat butt."
  • From the Mouths of Babes: Eleven year-old Amy and the similarly aged Cuties make a lot of sexual references and they also pepper their sentences with unfiltered swearing.
  • Gainax Ending: With her relationship with her family and the cuties both severely damaged, Amy steps out to play jump rope with some girls. The camera pans up with Amy continuing to jump. She manages to continuously jump higher and higher (eventually higher than humanly possible). The scene evokes a kind of spiritual ascension.
  • Good Shepherd: A version with the imam that Amy's mother brings to their house to examine her. He treats Amy gently and kindly reassures Mariam that Amy's behavior is not due to the Devil's influence. He also counsels Mariam that, if the situation with her husband is causing her and Amy more suffering than they can handle, she should consider divorcing him.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: The Cuties first interaction with Amy is to hurl insults at her and one of them even threw a rock at her for peeping at them during their dance practice, and they continue to bully her when she meets them again, eventually being subjected to their peer pressure. Despite this, Amy still wants to join their group and befriend them in some twisted way of getting their approval.
  • How We Got Here: The movie opens with Amy's tear-stained made-up face with bright lights all around her, and we only find out much later what that scene is supposed to be. See My God, What Have I Done? for the context.
  • Karma Houdini: Amy, to a disturbing degree. She steals money from her struggling mother, frames an innocent man by posting a picture of her naked crotch from his phone (which she'd also stole from him!) just to spite him, stabs a boy's palm with a pen and nearly drowns a girl to take her place in the dance competition. Her only comeuppance is that she feels bad for few moments, if even that.
  • Left Hanging: So is her friendship with the Cuties and Angelica irreparably damaged after she runs off on them in the middle of their dance routine during the contest? Do we get to see what happens in her father's wedding when the mother tells her that it's okay if she decides not to attend? And what did her mother mean by that? It's never explained as the movie just ends with Amy skipping rope with some girls.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: For some reason, when a piece of wedding confetti that was stuck on her hair suddenly falls in front of her, it triggers this reaction from Amy during the dance competition where she suddenly cries and becomes petrified in the middle of their dance routine, perhaps due to the realization that the audience was reacting negatively to them or that she had abandoned an important family event just to dance—it's never made clear. As a result, she runs away from the competition altogether to go home.
  • No Dress Code: The only explanation how Amy and the Cuties get away with dressing the way they do in school. Some background female students are seen sporting this too, like their rival group.
  • No Pronunciation Guide: Amy pronounces her name with a short A ("Ah-mi") rather than a long one.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Amy's full name is Aminata, but only her mother calls her that.
  • Parental Neglect:
    • Amy's mother, as she is dealing with her husband's second marriage, which ends up worrying more about her wedding than about Amy's true feelings.
    • Angelica's parents; according to her, they just work in a restaurant without worrying about Angelica and her brother. The film shows that Angelica and her brother do not get along so well.
  • Peer Pressure Makes You Evil: "Evil" might be too strong a word to describe an 11-year-old girl, but Amy does a lot of questionable or immoral things while trying to gain the approval of the Cuties, including stealing money from her mother, dressing in provocative clothes, and shoving one of the girls into a river to take her place in the dance competition.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality:
    • Amy, big time. She steals her cousin's cellphone, some money from her mother, gets into a fight with the rival dance crew that she initiated (even if the other crew sort of started it by calling them names), and in one instance, she even gets away with nearly drowning another girl. And yet when other characters finally call her out for the way she's acting, it's never portrayed as getting her just desserts but rather we're supposed to see it as a tragic turn of events for her.
    • The Cuties and how sexualized they are for someone so young is portrayed as something normal, or even good from their perspective until it was subverted later during the dance competition where the audience begins booing and thumbing down at them during their performance. It's assumed this is why Amy decides to abandon the competition when it happens.
  • Soap Punishment: In a variation where instead of doing it because someone said a bad word (a moot point because From the Mouths of Babes is in play), they subject Coumba to this after seeing her blow on a used condom like a toy balloon, presumably to clean out the "AIDS" she caught from doing so and so she wouldn't infect anyone else.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior:
    • The Cuties are a dance group who specialize in highly suggestive choreography with the music to match, including twerking. In addition, they are very curious about boys and sex in general despite not even being teenagers yet. Their behavior eventually rubs off on Amy.
    • In one scene, Amy stabs a boy's hand in her class with a compass, for slapping her butt.
    • In one scene, the girls, with Amy overhearing them, are seen examining a porn video (the video in question is not shown to us, thankfully) and discuss among themselves whether or not it's rape because of the woman's facial expressions. Not okay.
  • The Voice: Amy's father is mentioned a lot due to his decision in marrying a second wife, but we only hear his voice in one scene and it's through the phone. Even when the wedding finally takes place, we never get to see him.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Yasmine, the fourth Cutie, is replaced by Amy after she and Angie had a fight for humiliating her (Angie) in front of an older boy she liked at a video call. This caused her to disappear for most of the film and only returns when she reclaims her position after Amy is kicked out for posting a nude online. She is last seen hanging for dear life on a buoy after Amy pushes her into a river. Whether or not she was rescued was not shown, but it's most likely she was.

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