This coming-of-ager sharply hones into female adolescence that braces similarly to what Sofia Coppola did with The Virgin Suicides.
Water Lilies (Naissance des Pieuvres), in French with English subtitles, captures the anxieties of normal teen life, with a telling look into the complications of friendship.
Celine Sciamma's adroit and provocative debut centers on synchronized swimming and girls Marie (Pauline Acquart), Floriane (Adele Haenel), and Anne (Louise Blachere).
Marie is less developed than the shapely Floriane who doesn't shirk her sexuality. The chubby Anne, who is Marie's best friend, is smitten with Floriane's sinewy boyfriend Francois (Warren Jacquin) who is good at water polo. And, he just got more than a glimpse of Anne in the locker room.
The honesty in Sciamma's plotting will show the tension in this triangular dynamic of Marie, Anne, and Floriane, as strong feelings develop from one to another. All the while Marie is trying to make the swim team, led by Floriane.
The interesting thing the director does is leaving adult influence out of the equations; thus, the internalization and pain associated with self-doubt and peer pressure becomes more resonant.
Acquart, who resembles a young Kristy MacNichol reminds one of a film she did way back with Tatum O'Neal. The cruelty and deceit comes forth as Acquart ranges well from an understated obsession. Sciamma stages it all with acute visual expression from low angles or without sound to make the sport lushly rendered. And, she works diligently with her editor and sound people to make something linger in the heart and mind.