Alli Haapasalo’s Girls Girls Girls is a totally relatable coming of age story of three women so therefore it must follow the same tried and tested formula of each Hollywood story of its ilk. Only it doesn’t. Nothing is sensationalised for the sake of a story. There is a pleasant mundanity to every frame of a feature that doesn’t try to be unique by some outlandish plot twist, an unexpected character trait or an unexpected framing device (although it does have one, just not a new one). Instead Haapasalo relies equally on the abilities of her cast and a script that doesn’t assume each young woman coming out of adolescence needs to have some fresh trauma defining everything they do.
Following the lives of determined figure skater Emma (Linnea Leino), impulsive Mimmi (Aamu Milonoff) and adventurous Rönkkö (Eleonoora Kauhanen) over the course of three consecutive Fridays. Mimmi and Emma experience the highs and lows of first love as they try to figure out what that means for their lives outside of each other as Rönkkö goes in search of her sexual awakening with a series of men.
While easy to point at each of these three characters and break them down into their baser elements, it’s refreshing to watch a story where it doesn’t matter where these characters end up. This could be a snapshot of anyone because the ideas here play not just to a female audience but to anyone who finds themselves lost in their 20s. Rönkkö’s varied dates and exploits over three days are gender neutral and yet Haapasalo ensures they feel intrinsically linked to her and only her. The fact that the script (written by Ilona Ahti and Daniela Hakulinen) shows the spectrum of sexuality here and the confusion it brings is delicate but humorous in just how normal it is.
In fact, that is how this coming-of-age story differentiates itself from conventions that most fall victim to. Girls Girls Girls treats subjects that most films find uncomfortable with respect instead. Be it asexuality, delayed teenage rebellion or just simple loneliness, each is normalised here while still proving endlessly watchable. It’s hard to imagine the film working quite as well as it does without the performances of Milonoff and Kauhanen in particular. Mimmi is a pot of anger waiting to boil over, tempered by her underplayed friendship with Rönkkö and Milonoff shines while giving Mimmi an empathy that the script underplays. Kauhanen underpins Rönkkö’s sexual naivety with a waning hopefulness and a communal despondency that is felt throughout each of the three stories playing here. While Leino is impressive, Emma is short changed at times to bolster Mimmi and occasionally the film feels imbalanced because of it.
While it proves difficult at times to invest in the story as a whole as its clear that there is no real ending to be found here, instead a nice placeholder in these three women’s lives. Instead, the little victories amid the bountiful failures of growing up are the moments you cling to and in the end, that’s the most relatable thing about Girls Girls Girls. It’s never going to be a cult classic, a definitive film in the overstuffed coming-of-age genre but it might just say more about the subject by doing what every other film tries so hard to do, not try.