When it comes to coming of age and growing into adulthood, life can get complicated quickly. Trying to find the balance of exploring one’s own identity while experiencing new relationships can lead to complex emotions and outside judgments. In Alli Haapasalo’s latest, the Finnish director examines the power of first love and acceptance and how that can easily define a young woman’s self-image. By exploring uncompromising affection and sexuality through three young women over a three-week time period, Haapasalo composes a profound example of longing to be seen. Girl Picture is a close-to-perfect showcase of passion, desire, and the pursuit of liberation when it comes to identity.

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Girl Picture sees best friends Mimmi (Aamu Milonoff) and Rönkkö (Eleonoora Kauhanen) right at the cusp of womanhood. Ready to take on new experiences loaded with passion and pleasure, the two young women set out on a journey to rediscover themselves. Emma (Linnea Leino), on the other hand, has dedicated her life to figure skating and vows to be successful by any means necessary. Upon crossing paths, these three young women learn that the transition to adulthood isn’t always easy. Yet, the joys of rediscovering themselves and their endless desires are worth the uncertainties and discomfort along the way.

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Alli Haapasalo’s coming-of-age story is a vibrant film that genuinely acknowledges the messiness of growing up, finding love, and healing from past traumas. Often required to function during these experiences simultaneously, young women aren’t given enough kindness when it comes to mishandling situations or finding the perfect balance to deal with such fluctuating and intense emotions. But Haapasalo recognizes the importance of portraying these circumstances at such tender ages, and she does so graciously. As a result of her delicate direction, Girl Picture reveals honest truths about sex and love when intermingled in trauma and personal growth.

As expected in a film about growing into womanhood, Girl Picture adequately captures the clumsiness of growing together and apart in female friendships. Ilona Ahti and Daniela Hakulinen’s script remarkably nails this dynamic through the three leads, Mimmi, Emma, and Rönkkö. Additionally, the story unravels their co-dependencies and unbreakable bonds despite having some conflicts with each other along the way. But this is what makes Girl Picture so special. Every character exists as their individualized selves and not to serve someone else’s growth or progression. This is as real as it gets when showcasing how young women grow into adulthood when passion, friendship, and sex isn’t always perfect.

Through Mimmi, much of the film’s themes of trauma and growth manifest throughout her developing relationships. To that end, Milonoff’s performance is sensational. She excels at portraying such complicated reactions, demanding empathy from viewers irrespective of their stance on her character. Eleonoora Kauhanen plays Mimmi’s best friend Rönkkö, and she is so special in this role, charming in one moment and perfecting her comedic timing in others. Lastly, Linnea Leino plays Emma with affecting grace. She balances conflicting emotions so beautifully, showcasing her acting range in various forms, including subtlety and all-out eruption.

Although the story lacks detailed explanations into the why’s of some characters’ behaviors, it speaks to the complications of human emotions, especially young women in their adolescence. Sometimes, explanations aren’t enough to describe what a woman is feeling and why, and that’s what makes Girl Picture delightful and sincere. Backed by phenomenal performances in their portrayal of complicated characters, Haapasalo’s latest is a comfort watch in composition and sentiment. It’s unapologetic with showcasing the intricacies of girlhood, and it’s a joy to experience and witness sexuality, queerness, and female friendship in its honest totality — free of judgement and restraint.

Girl Picture released in limited theaters on August 12. The film is 100 minutes long and is not rated.