Thankfully, the movie trend of 2017 is not, in fact, ‘deer jumping in front of moving cars’, as Get Out, Graduation, A Cure For Wellness and Elle once made it appear, but the noticeable and welcome rise of ‘female-driven coming-of-age stories…with a twist.’
Raw is one of these films: a French Bildungsroman dealing with themes of identity, discovering sexuality, and sisterhood, injected with a touching undertone. It’s also a quasi-horror cannibal movie with enough blood and guts to make Tarantino squirm. Similarly, Thelma uses the concept of psychic powers to explore self-identity and sexuality through the eyes of a teenage girl. Ava’s stabs at surrealism are much more sedate, in a coming-of-age tale involving blindness, stolen dogs and nudist beach theft. And Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut, Lady Bird, is a rather more standard participant in this trend (no surrealism, plenty of coming-of-age), but the humour and relatability marks it out as a wonderful entry nonetheless.
What these films all have in common is their fixation on the purely female perspective. None of these films could have simply been gender-shifted; this is the teenage girl’s experience relived through filmmaking lens. It belongs to them, and only them.
The trend is a combination of three obvious major factors. It’s the growing urge for the representation of strong female characters in film, following a near-century slant towards male-led pictures. It’s the acknowledgement of a new 21st Century social landscape for young girls, teenagers and millennials to explore and develop. And, focusing on the ‘…with a twist’ aspect, it’s the increasing awareness, provoked by widely celebrated male coming-of-age films like Boyhood and Moonlight, that the genre can be injected with arthouse bravura without straying too far away from its roots.
This isn’t just excluded to foreign independent films, however. Gloriously, one of 2017’s most significant and widely acclaimed films is highly emblematic of this trend: Wonder Woman. Though it may not initially seem like it, she follows all the tropes: a sheltered, cyclical initial existence, a craving to break free of this existence, a breach into an undiscovered world, and the process of learning about both life and her own identity. Whereas tired sequels seemed to be all the rage last year, 2017’s fixation is a lot more fulfilling, healthy, and – let’s face it, in the wake of scandal after scandal with a distinct gender bias – necessary. Perhaps not coincidentally, another thing these films have in common is that they’re all rather great.