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'Girl Picture' cast celebrates 'imperfect' teenage characters

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From left to right, Eleonoora Kauhanen, Linea Leino and Aamu Milonoff star in "Girl Picture." Photo courtesy of Citizen Jane Productions
From left to right, Eleonoora Kauhanen, Linea Leino and Aamu Milonoff star in "Girl Picture." Photo courtesy of Citizen Jane Productions

LOS ANGELES Aug. 12 (UPI) -- The cast of Finnish drama Girl Picture, opening Friday in the United States, said the film depicts imperfect characters.

In the film, Aamu Milonoff, Eleonoora Kauhanen and Linnea Leino play teenagers in high school who experience complicated romantic relationships.

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"Imperfections are beautiful," Kauhanen, 23, told UPI in a recent Zoom interview. "We are all imperfect, but we are beautiful like that. I think we make mistakes and they're sometimes bad mistakes, but life goes on."

Kauhanen plays Ronkko, who aims to have her first sexual experience with a boy. Milonoff, 21, plays Mimmi, who begins a relationship with figure skater Emma (Leino).

Girl Picture includes love scenes choreographed by intimacy coordinator Pia Rickman. Leino said she appreciated how Girl Picture showed that one's first sexual encounters can be messy and ungraceful.

"There's nothing bad about that," Leino said. "It can hurt you. It can feel bad, but that's how it goes."

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Milonoff added that teenagers can treat every uncomfortable occurrence like "the end of the world." Milonoff said she hopes Girl Picture shows viewers that acting out is normal, too.

"I haven't seen in so many movies for young people in which they're allowed to be crazy and not nice," Milonoff said.

Throughout the course of Girl Picture, there are betrayals between the three characters. Kauhanen said the film ends with a hopeful message that they've all learned from their mistakes.

"Forgiveness for yourself and others is very important," Kauhanen said. "There's always hope, and you can always do better."

Kauhanen also said that Girl Picture does not offer any easy answers. Neither Ronkko, Mimmi nor Emma figure out their entire lives at the end.

"[In] Ronkko's story, for example, she doesn't come up with the solution," Kauhanen said. "Things can be incomplete, and that's OK."

The characters in Girl Picture ultimately talk out their issues. Ronkko discusses her sexual desires with her partners, some more receptive than others.

Mimmi faces her fraught relationships with her family and with Emma.

Emma also talks about her misgivings about skating with her coach.

"You have to talk," Leino said. "Girl Picture is also an encouragement for young people to see that talking is the best way to do it."

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Though all the stars of Girl Picture are now in their 20s, they said the issues that face their characters are universal no matter when they grow up. Leino said she was a teenager just before social media became a factor in her life, but she still related to Emma.

"The things that we're approaching in Girl Picture are the same," Leino said. "They were exactly the same things when I was a teenager."

Girl Picture premiered virtually at the Sundance Film Festival in January and opened in Finland in April. Kauhanen said that audiences of all ages have related to the film.

"We heard comments from people a lot older than we are," Kauhanen said. "Those are the things that they thought about and discussed with their friends when they were younger."

Milonoff has been acting since 2012 and Leino since 2017. Girl Picture is Kauhanen's first feature film.

"I've done some small TV roles, but I've mainly done stage," Kauhanen said. "When I got in front of the camera, the same magic happened that you forget your surroundings and you're in the character."

Milonoff changed her look drastically to play Mimmi. She sports a fake nose ring, and she cut her formerly waist-length hair to portray Mimmi.

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"Our makeup artist showed me a picture with a girl with short hair, bright orange color and very many piercings," Milonoff said. "I was scared to cut my hair. I had a crisis, but then it looked super good."

Leino had no figure skating experience before Girl Picture. She trained for three months, and still had a stunt double for the axel jumps and falls on the ice.

"There are just a few people who can do that jump," Leino said. "So three months wasn't enough for me to learn it."

Though Girl Picture is a Finnish language film, all three actors spoke English for this interview. Milonoff and Kauhanen knew each other from high school in Finland, where English is part of the curriculum.

"We hear a lot of English everywhere," Milonoff said, adding that she also watches a lot of American movies. "In Finland, not a single movie is dubbed in the theaters. Everything is subtitled."

Milonoff and Kauhanen got to know Leino, director Alli Haapasalo and the crew through a rehearsal process they say Finnish cinema does not usually afford. Kauhanen said that by the time they filmed, their characters became instinctive.

"You didn't have to start questioning it or trying to figure it out on the set," Kauhanen said. "You didn't have to conjure up those feelings because you knew because we knew our characters so well."

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