EIFF 2015 – The Diary of a Teenage Girl

Jun 28, 2015 | Posted by in EIFF 2015
EIFF 2015

Marielle Heller’s The Diary of a Teenage Girl is an adaptation of a novel by Phoebe Gloeckner chronicling the story of a young girl who tries to grow up too fast.

The film wastes no time dropping the audience right in the thick of it with the opening line from Bel Powley’s Minnie being “I just had sex…”. It completely sets the tone of what to expect from the film right in these opening seconds. Everything gets even more bizarre from here as it turns out her formative sexual experience is with her mother’s boyfriend Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård) who is needless to say far older than she is.

If you find that uncomfortable then this film definitely isn’t for you as the narrative fully commits to this ill advised coupling and takes it into some really intense territory. The whole thing is framed in such a way that the audience can see how wrong it all is but none of the characters seem to. Monroe has some moments where he decides that he needs to stop doing this but the seductive promise of an underage girl at his beck and call proves too much resist for him.

Minnie’s inductive experience causes her to spiral into a really self destructive lifestyle full of drugs, alcohol and promiscuity. It sounds like a really standard narrative for the film to follow and it is to an extent but I thought this was handled with so much grace and sophistication that I found myself not caring about the predictability of the plot. Beyond some rushing to get to the end of the story towards the end I felt that the story was nicely paced and really well told.

The Diary of a Teenage GirlBel Powley gives and excellent performance as Minnie. Nothing she does or says feels at all contrived as Powley fits so naturally into the part. Even scenes where she is dancing on her bed as any teenage girl would do are dripping with authenticity that it’s easy to forget that you’re watching a film sometimes. That might be a bit of an exaggeration but there’s a certain reality to her performance that makes her character entirely believable.

This will of course have a lot to do with the writing which is absolutely on point here. Everything from the dialogue to the way people act feels very realistic and helps draw the viewer into the world the film inhabits. Having it be so grounded in this area means that the visual flair never feels like a gimmick. A big part of Minnie’s character is that she’s an aspiring artist and her artwork looks very twisted in keeping with her fractured psyche as a result of her experiences. There are several moments where her artwork comes to life in the form of animation to symbolise her thought processes. It’s handled really well and never overpowers the film by being overused or feeling pointless. It certainly makes the whole thing a lot more memorable as well.

Kristen Wiig plays Minnie’s mother Charlotte and her presence seems to be a destructive one for any young woman. She frequently has parties where copious amounts of drugs and alcohol are consumed and she has no problem with her young daughters being exposed to it. As above it would have been so easy for this character to fall into the standard unfit parent mold but the acting and writing are more sophisticated than that so Charlotte feels very real. She’s a woman who has had a lot of bad luck in life and has essentially been defeated by it. She’s more to be pitied than anything else.

Alexanders Skarsgård does a great job in this as well. His character is obviously a creep since he takes pleasure from having sex with underage girls but he’s never painted as being overly creepy. There’s a naturalistic quality to his performance that makes him somewhat likeable some of the time. The script never makes him out to be a malicious deviant and his performance suggests a man who suffers from an addiction that he wants to kick but never can. It’s a wonderfully complex character and shows that life isn’t all black and white as some people would like it to be.

As long as you know what you’re getting yourself in for her and think you can handle it I would say check this out. It’s well written, well acted and has a unique visual style to it that keeps the whole thing feeling memorable long after it’s over.

  • 8.5/10
    The Diary of a Teenage Girl - 8.5/10


A really engaging and entertaining film showing the darker side of a teenage girl growing up.

This film works due to a combination of an excellent script as well as powerful and authentic performances really selling the whole thing. Bel Powley is great in the lead role never seeming any less than believable as a troubled 17 year old girl. It really helps that the dialogue and actions of the characters all feel completely realistic and keep things grounded in believability throughout.

The plot is entirely predictable and follows a pretty distinct formula but all of the characters are layered and well developed so it never feels that the formula is present. I found myself absorbed in the narrative and barely noticed that it was obvious what was going to happen next.

I felt that the film rushed towards the conclusion towards the end but it really is a minor gripe as everything else was so expertly crafted that it didn’t matter too much. There is an imbalance between setup and resolution but it is barely noticeable.

This is a film that tries to shock the audience right from the beginning so don’t go in expecting a sweet coming of age story about a young woman growing up. It’s very raw and goes to a lot of uncomfortable places but it’s done so well that I’d definitely suggest checking it out.

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