With 2017’s Blue My Mind, up-and-coming director Lisa Brühlmann has delivered a rare and exquisite gem; a lush, heartbreaking, and extraordinarily compelling coming-of-age story that perfectly captures the potent, heady, and dangerous nature of female adolescence – a vulnerability that feels like invincibility and boundless possibility and power … until it doesn’t.
15-year-old Mia (wonderfully played by Luna Wedler) reluctantly attends a new high school after her father accepts a job offer and her family relocates to a small Swiss town. Desperate to fit in with a rebellious clique of girls in her class and to quiet the disturbing urges she’s begun to feel since the move, she starts to act out in increasingly dangerous ways … and to experience some terrifying bodily changes. When, despite her best efforts, she is unable to prevent or reverse the shocking changes, Mia must learn to face her own nature and make peace with her transformation.
Blue My Mind ably and innovatively explores the fears and emotional turmoil that accompany puberty for many young women. Its spiritual antecedents include Julie Ducournau’s unforgettable 2016 cannibal film Raw and Catherine Hardwicke’s critically acclaimed independent drama Thirteen (2003), but it also calls to mind Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank (2009) and John Fawcett’s 2002 feminist werewolf film Ginger Snaps (although without the Canadian creature feature’s darkly comedic touch). Water plays a fascinating role in the film, implicated in both of Mia’s “transformations” — into a woman (through the onset of her first period, as the menstrual cycle has long been linked to the moon and therefore the tides) and into her final form (which I won’t spoil here). The opening scene takes place at the seaside, the aquarium holding the unlucky fish in the family apartment plays a role in the plot, and Gianna nearly drowns at a high school party. Even when water isn’t shown onscreen, it’s always referenced in the film’s beautiful palette, in which slate, teal, and aqua feature heavily. The film is pregnant with symbolism but never feels heavy-handed – the narrative glides effortlessly, propelled by Brühlmann’s deft direction and the excellent performances across the board. Gabriel Lobos’s cinematography is haunting and gorgeous, and the film’s sound design is natural and uncluttered. Quiet and riveting, Blue My Mind is a subtle and confident masterpiece, and a strong contender for my favourite film of the festival.