Girl (2018)

Based on a true story, a poignant and empathetic look at the challenges faced by a young transgender aiming to be a ballet dancer and an intimate glimpse into her struggles of identity, ambition, and the pursuit of acceptance.

8/8/20233 min read

Victor Polster as Lara in 'Girl'
Victor Polster as Lara in 'Girl'

Dutch, French, 106 minutes, 2018

Director: Lukas Dhont

Cast: Victor Polster, Arieh Worthalter, Olivar Bodart, Angelo Tijssens

Awards: FIPRESCI Prize, Un Certain Regard, Camera d’ Or, Queer Palm, Jury award for Best Performance, Un Certain Regard, Cannes Film Festival, 2018; Won Best European Discovery and Nominated for Best film & Best Actor at European Film Awards, 2018; Best First Feature Film, London Film Festival, 2018; Best International Feature Film, Zurich Film Festival, 2018

Set against the backdrop of world of ballet, and based on the life story of Belgian transgender woman Nora Monsecour, the film traces the journey of a fifteen year old transgender girl Lara. She is enrolled as a girl ballerina in Antwerp’s one of the reputed Ballet’s school and her teachers give her an extension for one year after an eight week’s trial period in which she impresses with her dancing skills and dedication.

She lives with her father Mathias (Arieh Worthalter) and young brother Milo (Oliver Bodart). Her father is extra protective of her because of her being transgender. Lara is attending school, dropping her brother to his school, practicing her ballet and at the same time paying visits to doctors who are monitoring her as she wants to be operated for sex-change. A psychiatrist is also in constant touch with her and her doctor, advising her about how to go about the entire experience. So there is too much going on in Lara’s life which prompts her father, Mathias, to enquire about her well-being every now and then. This irritates Lara who is shown as an intensely private person.

To look natural among girls, Lara tucks her penis by taping it which produces rashes. Her father advises her against it but Lara continues with it. Her doctor too tells her that she should be in top physical and mental state before undergoing the operation. As the ballet rehearsals grow tough, Lara is losing strength physically so doctors tell her to stop dancing as her weight is reducing which is not good for her. Writing beyond this point will reveal the climax so I am stopping here.

The film’s crowning glory is Victor Polster, the actor who portrays Lara’s role with remarkable depth and restrain. His performance is a revelation, conveying the anguish, frustration, and hope that define Lara's inner private world. It is no surprise that he won numerous awards as ‘Best Actor’ for his portrayal of Lara as mentioned in awards section above. Mathias, Lara’s father, portrayed by Arieh Worthalter's performance is another compelling aspect of the film. Their bond is beautifully nuanced, encompassing moments of warmth, frustration, and an unconditional love that confronts the challenges they face.

‘Girl’ is Lukas Dhont’s first full length feature film and he clearly impresses with his talent. His in-depth but sensitive handling of Lara’s character is a pleasure to watch. The screenplay is elegant too and most importantly, cinematography scores ace. The natural or available light shooting and concentrating on Lara’s closes even during speedy and fast moving ballet steps is not very easy to operate and negotiate. In conclusion, "Girl" is a thought-provoking empathetic film that offers a poignant glimpse into the challenges and triumphs of a transgender girl's journey.

About the Director, Lukas Dhont

Lukas is a young director born in Ghent, Belgium in the month of May, 1991. Born to a fashion teacher at an art school, Lukas used to work as a costume design assistant on film and television programs while in school. He made number of short films before making his first feature.

‘Girl’ is Lukas’s first full length feature film based on a true story of Nora Monsecour, a professional dancer and trans woman who had applied for learning Ballet as a girl but was not accepted. Initially, Lukas wanted to make a documentary but at Nora’s refusal, went on to make a fictional account of her story. The film ‘Girl’ won 33 awards and 39 more nominations in film festivals and annual awards across the world. Going by this first film of his, Lukas clearly is a talented filmmaker.

His second film ‘Close’, made in 2022 is an account of his own experiences at school which depicts relationship between two teenage school boys. This film too won plethora of awards including Grand Prix at Cannes Film Festival, 2022 and was nominated for Best International Feature film at Academy Awards, organized in 2023.

In June 2023, Lukas was invited to become member of the premier US film body Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.