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Sundance movie review: 'Girl Picture' captivates with Finnish coming-of-age tale

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Sundance movie review: 'Girl Picture' captivates with Finnish coming-of-age tale
From left to right, Eleonoora Kauhanen, Linnea Leino and Aamu Milonoff star in "Girl Picture." Photo courtesy of the Sundance Institute

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 28 (UPI) -- Girl Picture, which premiered virtually at the Sundance Film Festival, is a Finnish coming of age movie for three teenage girls. It shows that the times, location and specifics may change, but there are some universal truths of growing up that will always be relevant.

Mimmi (Aamu Milonoff), Ronkko (Eleonoora Kauhanen) and Emma (Linnea Leino) are in high school. Mimmi and Ronkko work at a smoothie stand in the mall and Emma is training for figure skating competitions.

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Mimmi and Emma start dating, while Ronkko chases boys. They all go to parties and hang out as teenagers do. One activity is a group laser tag outing.

Girl Picture depicts sincere, heartfelt emotions. Mimmi keeps trying to tell her family about her girlfriend, but it's never the right time for her immediate relatives. Ronkko is inexperienced in bed and finds out just how unforgiving young men can be.

In any time and any place, teenagers can be emotional and selfish. Heck, adults are too. They hurt each other, but usually aren't beyond reconciliation. Many of them still need their friends and even need their moms sometimes.

The attention to empowering women in young sexual relationships, and including LGBTQ relationships, is newer to the genre although Girl Picture is hardly the first. Sundance movies of the '90s paved the way for a new LGBTQ indie cinema.

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John Hughes didn't go there so there is still a lot of ground to make up in the teen coming -of-age genre. Plus, every generation is different and every human being is different so these stories always remain relevant.

And yet, the universal aspects are undeniable. Mimmi may be a distraction to Emma, but it appears Emma was already losing interest in skating. Perhaps she was looking for just such an excuse.

Teenagers will always get in over their heads with their first sexual experiences. It appears every generation gets bolder and more experimental, but it may just be that movies have finally started depicting them honestly. Teenage bickering will never go out of fashion.

Milonoff, Kauhanen and Leino are compelling leads that are easy to invest in for 100 minutes. Whether it's Emma's rehearsals trying to land an axel or Mimmi and Ronkko acting out, Girl Picture remains engrossing and moving.

Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001 and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012. Read more of his work in Entertainment.

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