Coming of age tale with a difference
- Cocoon review by PD
This coming-of-age tale by Leonie Krippendorff captures with some sensitivity issues such as having to deal with confusing hormones and peer pressure at a time when finding love and fitting in feel like the most important things in the world. Unable to attend a school trip due to a broken hand, 14-year-old Nora is temporarily placed into her older sister Jule's class and becomes embroiled in her friendship group where she is forced to sit on the side lines of parties and outings while Jule sometimes resents her presence. Soon, the arrival of a new girl, Romy, awakens different emotions in Nora which she spends the summer trying to reconcile.
Krippendorff’s film has a fairly typical coming-of-age plot in which a young girl explores her sexuality as bodily changes expose her to new questions about her identity and interests, but what sets 'Cocoon' apart are the various ways in which Krippendorff frames her story, an urban experience set in a low-income multicultural neighbourhood where parentless teenagers are left to fend for themselves. Nora and Jule have an alcoholic mother who would rather spend time in the local bar than notice the needs of her children, who are basically left to care for themselves. A good sequence, when the optimistic Jule agrees to take care of a baby simulation doll, avoids the usual comic scenes, instead focusing on the girls’ experience of neglect.
The film is also peppered with the wider influence and pressure that the media and rap music place on young girls, and the audience is shown various discussions about losing weight by eating cotton wool soaked in orange juice, hearing the vlogs that Jule spends time listening to with advice on finding boyfriends, or performing sexualised dance moves at parties to please the boys in the group. Nora and Jules, Krippendorff implies, are left to learn about the world from Internet strangers with no one guiding them safely through some of the most formative experiences. There is also a visual honesty in Cocoon in which the sometimes embarrassing experiences of teenage girls are openly represented. When Nora has her first period and a very public leak Krippendorff shows it without ceremony or melodrama – still a rare sight on screen.
Krippendorff makes the central love story a little too gushingly romantic, with a montage of rather cliched scenes as the couple go skinny dipping, joyfully attend a pride parade and lay together in sunny fields that contrast awkwardly with the urban energy of the rest of the film. And whilst the Director is careful to avoid any scenes of the Nora having sex with Romy, the implication is still rather awkward, especially with several scenes of nudity and acts of masturbation. But Lena Urzendowsky strikes the right balance as Nora, an uncertain outsider who says very little but seems to feel out of place and awkward at every moment before starting to find her own path. There is good support from Lena Klenke as 16-year old Jule already swept up in compliance with her gang but still craving guidance from her mother and sister, while Jella Haase gives Romy plenty of 'free-spirited cool' that makes the character so inspiring to Nora.
The caterpillar to butterfly metaphor is a little heavy-handed but Krippendorff recognisably charts Nora’s painful transition from child to young woman while capturing the heat of the summer in a dense city environment that shapes the raging hormones and pressures felt by the characters as they navigate the highs and lows of first love while barely knowing who they are. Well worth a look.
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Honest yet slight
- Cocoon review by AER
Cocoon is a great little film out of time. It shares much in common with F**cking Amal aka Show Me Love that came out about 20 years old, a crush between two high school develops and flourishes into what? It's well-acted, lovingly scripted and presented; quite simply it feels a need to celebrate the beautiful things in life, and whilst this may not have the gravitas of more serious films, it's a lovely watch and very truthful with it. However, Cocoon doesn't offer anything new for us, and sometimes that can be important. Recommended for those looking for an easy-going, uncomplex, feel-good drama we can all relate too.
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