This tough, uncompromising and gritty slice of realism cuts to the core of the socialization of an adolescent who finds herself caught up with a gang of teenaged girls determined to make their way in the world. At times startlingly aggressive, at others softly romantic, Katarzyna Roslaniec’s film unflinchingly slashes its way through contemporary Polish society. Roslaniec exposes the confusions of a deeply troubled and potentially damaged generation, one that has grown up entirely in post-Soviet democratic Poland.
Alicja (Anna Karczmarczyk) is a newcomer and an outsider, an ordinary, conservatively attired teenaged girl who quickly finds herself mocked by the sexualized, hip group of schoolgirls who essentially walk the walk and talk the talk, both at school and in the streets. Crude, belligerent, cocky and fearless, this group of fourteen-year-olds soon starts to make Alicja’s life a living hell. Next to them, Alicja looks plain and commonplace, but it is not long before she is slowly invited into the group, undergoing a tough initiation along the way. She soon discovers why her new friends look so trendy and stylish: they hang around the local malls after school and give strangers casual blow jobs. The money earned allows them to buy the latest in fashionable jeans and cellphones. The choice Alicja faces is stark – to become part of the group and be accepted, or to try to go her own way. When she meets a shy, introverted boy, she finds herself in the middle of a power play for her emotions: as the leader of her gang reaches out to her for affection, her male love interest struggles with his feelings for her.
Growing up as a teenager is never easy, but Roslaniec portrays her protagonists not so much as the fourteen-year-olds they are, but as the adults they pretend to be. The filmmaker is completely at ease with her subject, and there is no sign of a false note anywhere. The gang’s frank behaviour and crass language is at times breathtaking – these girls are not wilting wallflowers, and in their world survival is equated with aggression. At the same time, the hard, grown-up face they put on to cope with their daily lives does not tell the entire story. Each one grapples with a wealth of other emotions, as families and friends cause them heartbreak and pain. —tiff.net
Mall Girls by focusing on troubled youth exemplifies post-communist Polish identity with its shallow materialism and involuntary falling into pitfalls of consumerism society. Habitual patterns of aspired lifestyle are forcibly exercised for the sake of being cool and edgy - a presumed prerequisite for success.
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