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Film / Tomboy

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Tomboy is a 2011 French drama film directed and written by Céline Sciamma.

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

Soon she meets Lisa (Jeanne Disson), 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 and Lisa soon develop a mutual crush.

Has nothing to do with either comic, or the 1985 American teen comedy of the same name.

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.
  • 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 Mickaël 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. She has a very masculine clothing style too, presenting herself as a boy in much of the film, and is a tomboy at the very least.
  • Bookends: Near the beginning, Laure introduces herself as "Mickaël" and at the end, she introduces herself again as Laure.
  • Butch Lesbian: Laure—who's as tomboyish as it gets, and surely gets along very well with the idea of dating Lisa—is likely either this or possibly transgender.
  • Coming of Age Story: For Laure, who's exploring her gender identity and experiencing her first love.
  • Cosmetic Catastrophe: Downplayed. Lisa puts on quite some makeup on Mickaël.
  • 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 "Mickaël" to a secluded area, and kisses her.
  • Girliness Upgrade: Laure gets two:
    • First when she's at Lisa's home as "Mickaël" and Lisa puts makeup on her face (see Recursive Crossdressing below).
    • Then when she's forced to wear a dress so everyone can see she's not a boy.
  • Kids Are Cruel: The boys force Laure to take off her short pants towards the end.
  • Lady Looks Like a Dude: The film is about Laure, a ten-year-old girl who moves to a town and decides to try and pass as male. Her short hair, androgynous looks, and prepubescent physique mean that she looks boyish all the time. She's only found out when she gets into a fight with a boy and his parents talk to her parents.
  • Masculine–Feminine Gay Couple: Tomboy Laure pretends she's a boy, falls for a far more feminine 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 "Mickaël" 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.
  • 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 and Girly Girl: Laure and Jeanne, Laure and Lisa.
  • Trauma Conga Line: 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.
  • 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.