She Monkeys


Written by Amelia Abraham
23 Sunday 23rd October 2011

As the girls proceed to physically and psychologically spar, their relationship adopts a strong undercurrent of sexual attraction. While predatory Cassandra more than embraces this, Emma is hesitant, evidently experiencing an internal conflict over her feelings for Cassandra and her to desire to succeed athletically. Failing to reconcile the two, Emma grows increasingly emotionally unstable, until the film crescendos with an violent outburst. Somewhat unexpected, but that’s when this film is best: when it throws you with its confrontational moments.

Isabella Lindquist as Sara

You could call this a coming of age film; small town boredom - tick, the vicissitudes of teenage desire - tick, an underwhelming sense of frustration - tick. Yet She Monkeys' exploration of sexuality manages to break away from the conventional. Aschan provocatively considers the relationship between primal urges and orthodoxy in scenes such as that when Emma’s younger sister Sara, who, although still a child, harbours an attraction towards her older cousin Sebastian and so performs a dance for him wearing nothing but her leopard print bikini. Or when Cassandra carefully undresses a drunk Emma who she presumes to be sleeping. Even where subject matter is absent, the camera itself is suggestive.

If, at this point, you’re thinking you might go because you like the sound of a film exploring the sexual tension between two Swedish girls then perhaps don’t bother… disappointingly, they don’t even get it on. Just kidding (sort of), the point is, rather than the interplay of attraction and rejection between the protagonists (which Aschan does construct convincingly), the focus lies more on competition and self-assertion. The majority of female audience members will at least identify somewhat with the fraught friendship portrayed on screen.

Aschan possesses then, a pretty acute insight into human relationships and behaviour. She seems interested in Darwinian ideas, a kind of survival of the fittest, as well as behavioural conditioning, specifically when shots of the girls training their dog in the forest illuminate for us the way in which so much as a touch on the hand from the domineering Cassandra has Emma at her command. The director certainly fulfils her aim to “depict people who can be seen as individuals, but also as part of a larger structure”.

There are a few areas where She Monkeys falls short; primarily, there isn’t really enough character depth to engross the audience. And you may find yourself begging Mathilda Paradeiser for one, just one, facial expression. Unfortunately her apparent maxim “never show feeling or you’ll just get hurt”, which she imparts upon Sara, just doesn’t seem like justification. The irony here is that Isabella Lindquist who plays Sara, is actually a much better actress, despite her young age.

Just as well, for as a “coming of age” film it seems like Sara is the only character who develops, and even this development might better be described as disillusionment. As for Emma and Cassandra, the movie’s abrupt ending leaves us perplexed as to their futures. But do we really care? Did we ever really know them to begin with? Ultimately, She-Monkeys seems to be in conflict with itself; it is at once bold and intriguing, yet dithers, and fails to truly blossom. Like Cassandra’s advances on Emma then, Aschan’s film has us tempted, but never fully seduced.


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