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Film / Tomboy

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Tomboy is a 2011 French film directed and written by Céline Sciamma (her second feature film after Water Lilies).

Ten-year-old French girl Laure is used to moving around. She's moving once again, but this time her parents plan on staying in a suburb for a while.

She meets Lisa, a girl her age, who mistakes her for a boy. Laure decides to stay in character and introduces herself to Lisa and the local children as "Mickaël". She keeps this secret from her parents, and it is summer so she hasn't run into any problems with school yet. She also develops a mutual crush on Lisa.

Has nothing to do with either comic.


This movie contains examples of:

  • Ambiguous Gender Identity: This is a source of debate on the film. It's about a girl who moves to a new town and presents herself as a boy to the other kids. The title of the movie and the ending make it vague whether she's a, well, tomboy or has gender dysphoria. Its director and writer Céline Sciamma said this was entirely deliberate, so that butch lesbians, trans men or tomboy straight women could all see themselves in Laure as a child.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Jeanne, though she's a rather mild example.
  • Attractive Bent-Gender: Lisa falls for "Mickaël", who is actually a girl.
  • Berserk Button: Don't mess with Jeanne. Laure will take you down.
  • Bifauxnen: Laure easily passes as a boy, and an attractive one for Lisa.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Laure has one toward her little sister, who says she used to beat up anyone who teased her and that their old neighborhood was scared of her. She could have been exaggerating, but Laure gets into a fight with a boy who pushed her sister and wins.
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  • Bittersweet Ending: Laure is forced to be seen as a girl again, the kids humiliate her, and Lisa seems to have broken off her romance with her. But it seems Laure and Lisa are still friends.
  • Blindfolded Trip: When Lisa leads Mickael into the forest for their First Kiss.
  • Boyish Short Hair: Laure has very short hair in contrast to Jeanne and Lisa who have longer hair and are more girly.
  • Bookends: Near the beginning, Laure introduces herself as "Mickael" and at the end, she introduces herself again as Laure.
  • Butch Lesbian: Laure possibly, who's as tomboyish as it gets, and she surely gets along very well with the idea of dating Lisa. Either that or possibly transgender.
  • Cosmetic Catastrophe: Downplayed. Lisa puts on quite some makeup on Mickael.
  • Exact Eavesdropping: Towards the end in the forest, Laure comes in at the right time to overhear the other boy telling the group about her being a girl.
  • Free-Range Children: The kids are allowed to play outside (even on the lake) without parental supervision.
  • First Kiss: Lisa drags "Mickael" to a secluded area, and kisses her.
  • Humiliation Conga: Poor Laure goes through this. Her mom makes her appear as a girl to a boy she beat up and to her girlfriend, she is humiliated by the other kids and Lisa breaks up with her.
  • Kids Are Cruel: The boys force Laure to take off her short pants towards the end.
  • Masculine–Feminine Gay Couple: Tomboy Laure pretends she's a boy, falls for a girl named Lisa and they hit it off. The ending is ambiguous. Laure's gender gets revealed and Lisa is initially upset, however, they appear to start a friendship afterward. It's also possible that Laure may be transgender, subverting the trope if so.
  • Nose Nuggets: One of the topics when the kids play "truth or dare".
  • One of the Boys: Laure not only gets along good with the boys but she even passes as one.
  • Outdoorsy Gal: Laure loves spending time outside playing football (soccer).
  • Outfit-Rip Sex Check: The boys have Lisa check to see what Laure's sex is by pulling down her pants.
  • Puppy Love: Laure and Lisa are "dating". They're also preteens.
  • Recursive Crossdressing: When Lisa and "Mickael" play with some girly makeup after the dance.
  • Secret Keeper: Laure makes Jeanne promise not to tell their parents about the Mickael thing. She also tells it to her little brother when he was in the womb by whispering to her mother's stomach.
  • Shirtless Scene: Laura has a few, even as "Mickaël". She hasn't hit puberty and grown a female breast yet so it makes it easy for her to pass as a boy.
  • Shown Their Work: Many of the behaviors in the movie are rather accurate, right down to kids trying to "find out" a person's sex by taking off their pants. Director Céline Sciamma wanted the movie to be as naturalistic as possible.
  • Slice of Life: Many scenes depicting children at play and the boring everyday life of a family.
  • Spiritual Successor: Tomboy is sometimes considered as a Gender Flip of Ma Vie En Rose, even though it doesn't clearly address if Laure's transgender, unlike the latter.
  • Stock Scream: None other than the Wilhelm Scream.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Laure is a 10-year-old girl who moves to a new neighborhood. Throughout the movie, she passes herself off as a boy, even playing soccer without a shirt, kissing another girl, and swimming without a top. Before doing the last, she even fashions a thing to put in her shorts that mimics a penis bulge. However, given these rather intense measures there's some debate about whether Laure's transgender.
  • Tank-Top Tomboy: Laure usually wears one when she doesn't go shirtless.
  • Time Skip: The last scene skips a couple of weeks ahead of the Internal Reveal. The mother has given birth to a boy and Laure is already in school.
  • Tomboy: Exactly What It Says on the Tin, and taken Up to Eleven (not only does Laure behave like a boy, she passes as a boy).
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Laure and Jeanne, Laure and Lisa.
  • Unsettling Gender Reveal: Near the very end of the movie, Laure's mom forces Laure to wear a dress and go to apologize to the boy she beat up for pushing Jeanne. She also is forced to go to her girlfriend's house to apologize.


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