Betsy Sheil is an Arts student from Nottingham. From a young age, she has been an avid lover of filmmaking and the local cinema (Broadway in Nottingham). Although a lover of all film, Betsy has a particular interest in the promotion of female and non-binary filmmakers, and how the presentation of women on screen is evolving and changing. She also has a soft spot for the comedy genre and is a dedicated fan of Olivia Wilde’s ‘Booksmart’. Currently studying for her A levels, Betsy hopes to go on to work in filmmaking/film journalism.
Before graduation, best friends Amy and Molly realise that they have been cast aside by their peers for being bookworms and pretentious. They then decide to let loose and make up for the lost time.
I first saw Olivia Wilde’s directing debut ‘Booksmart’ on its release in 2019 and it quickly turned into one of my favourite films. Often compared to Superbad (Gregg Mottola, 2007), its take on the classic coming-of-age story is refreshing, and leads Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Denver have unmatchable chemistry. Wilde’s portrayal of queer teenage lead Amy feels genuine and you can’t help but fall in love with her awkwardness, which, paired with Molly’s self-assuredness, makes for a perfect double-act. Every performance is brilliant, from Bille Lourde’s eccentric but loyal Gigi to Jason Sudeikus’ role as part-time principal/’cool’ uber driver. I was initially drawn to Booksmart after seeing the trailer, I jokingly sent it to my best friend and said “HEY IT’S ME AND YOU!” and whilst watching it for the first time with a close friend I couldn’t stop grinning. The film perfectly balances the kind of outrageous events that can only be narratively justified in this kind of high-stakes-last-day-of-school scenario, with a more grounded evaluation of long-term relationships, whether that be the boy you had a rivalry with throughout high school or your best friend who is leaving for a different continent at the end of summer. This film has a special place in my heart; at 15 I felt like I had found one of the first films with which I wholeheartedly connected, and two years on the feeling hasn’t changed at all. In some ways I relate to the film more so now than I ever did at 15, with my best friend leaving for uni in the next month whilst I’m a year behind, and the fear and urgency Molly feels to not miss anything is something which I am relating to more and more every day. Booksmart is creative, unapologetic and full of witty writing, accompanied by its punchy soundtrack It’s the perfect coming of age film to me.
Click HERE for where to watch BOOKSMART (English subs)
Click on our FILMMAKERS page HERE to explore Olivia Wilde’s other films:
A teenage girl suddenly finds herself struggling to take care of herself and her younger brother.
Set in East London, Rocks tells the intimate and heart wrenching story of Shola ‘Rocks’ Omostoso and her younger brother Emmanuel. Director Sarah Gavron made this film in collaboration with the young actors who star in it, also employing students of an East End school as extras, most of whom found ‘Rocks’ to be their first professional role. Because of this, Rocks always feels raw and insightful – I felt instantly immersed in the story from the first moment. The bond between Rocks’ group of friends coupled with the vibrancy of the filmmaking effortlessly captures a sense of youth and the freedom it can give you. The film’s use of social media and the school setting builds on this, creating a very believable teenage world. With the compelling performance of the young leads, Gavron has created a film which feels almost documentarian – its intimacy creates, if not a direct connection to the girls themselves, at least a connection to their world, something I connected to throughout the film as a 17-year-old. Its story – that the ability to take risks and be spontaneous can be rewarding, and that connections with friends can serve as an escape to the hardships outside of school – is a powerful one.
Click HERE for where to watch ROCKS (English subs, AD)
Click on our FILMMAKERS page HERE to explore Sarah Gavron’s other films
JENNIFER’S BODY (2009)
Jennifer becomes possessed and turns into a succubus after she is sacrificed to Satan. When her best friend Needy learns about it, she has to stop Jennifer before she attacks her lover Chip.
Jennifer’s Body has become a cult classic in recent years and I’m glad that director Karyn Kusama – currently working on a brand-new adaptation of Dracula for US horror indie studio Blumhouse – is finally getting the praise she deserves, after the film suffered poor reviews and an unwarranted negative critical reception on its release. This raunchy, comedic thriller brilliantly explores the complexities of teenage female relationships and the blur between platonic and romantic feelings. (I mean, I feel like trying to eat every boy who has a slight interest in your best friend may indicate something more than a friendship…?) Diablo Cody’s witty writing shines under Kusama’s direction and the female gaze onscreen is refreshing to see within a 2000s coming-of-age film. This fun horror also explores deeper themes of queer identity, vengeance, sexual assault and violence. Megan Foxs’ performance is brilliant and charming and Jennifer’s Body in some ways should’ve been her opportunity to hit back at the unwarranted sexualisation she had faced throughout the 2000s. It’s interesting to re-watch Jennifer’s Body in the wake of the #metoo movement, a time when women across the globe have raised awareness of the undeniable rape culture which exists within Hollywood and other industries, and wonder if the film would be seen in a different light if released today.
Click HERE for where to watch Jennifer’s Body (subtitles)
Explore Karyn Kusama’s other films: HERE
Marieme joins an all-girl gang in the projects of Paris and is slowly turned out of her shell by her three sassy neighbours. As she falls further under their bravado and volatile energy, she begins making brave and foolish choices.
Céline Sciamma’s Girlhood explores Marieme ‘Viv’ story as she tries to break out of her toxic household whilst joining an all-girl gang. The film explores themes of identity and its complexities – who are you when you’re with your family? Your friends? Alone? Throughout the film you see Marieme transform herself as she changes those she surrounds herself with, and it made me consider the effects of my own relationships. As teenagers you have the freedom of a changing identity and freedom but what are the consequences of this? Why do we as teenagers gravitate towards rebellion? Girlhood explores the idea of female solidarity as a refuge, while also examining the temporality and traps of working-class teenage life, where escape may only be found in fleeting moments.
Whilst not shirking from exploring heavier overarching themes of wealth, race, drugs and class, Sciamma still creates moments of raw teenage fun, most notably in the film’s most famous scene featuring ‘Diamonds’ by Rihanna. Wearing a borrowed dress, Viv watches the freedom of the other girls dancing and eventually joins in. This scene felt prominent to me, Sciamma had captured such a mindless moment, just showing the pure connection between the girls in the scene. There are few but precious moments like this scattered throughout Girlhood, which makes for a magical watch.
Click HERE for where to watch Girlhood (English subs)
Click HERE to see our FILMMAKERS page to see Céline Sciamma’s films and where to watch.