Unrecognisable genre-blending has made this a most refreshing piece of cinema, one which has kept the confusion and inherent awkwardness of growing up. It has tried to capture the emotions that cinema struggle to illustrate realistically; they’re usually tampered with to become hollow, over-the-top or Americanised leaving the rest of the audiences struggling to sympathise. She Monkeys has managed to capture it with many moments being realistic and uncomfortable but ultimately it all feels worthless.
Emma (Mathilda Paradeiser) joins the local equestrian vaulting team where she meets the more popular, more successful Cassandra (Linda Molin). Their personalities are opposing at the beginning with Emma being a quiet, deadpanned teenage girl who often looks after her little sister. Cassandra is a much more confident, extrovert that loves flaunting her sexuality. In a swimming pool – where their friendship blossoms and suffers its first problem – she does her stretches in her bikini seductively, roping in two young men who introduce themselves.
Palpable sexual tension between Emma and Linda is one of the main drives to the film but it’s ultimately too passionless for it to eventually lead somewhere successfully or to be enjoyable. In quiet scenes of looks and few words their chemistry is screaming for something more to happen between them. Either the constant fight for power to finally reach boiling point or for their scorching lust to burn too bright to resist. The ambiguity throughout the film is too unhealthy to support it by making it a much more frustrating watch than an enjoyable one.
Emma’s seven year-old little sister, Sara (Isabelle Lindqvist), has the much more interesting arc throughout. Some may see her beginning to become ashamed of her body then realising the power of its sexuality that can come with it. The counter to be could be seen as the beginning of growing up as a deluded image of her as an adult. This arc is the most difficult to watch. Her infatuation with her older, male cousin that babysits her is the more troubling aspect yet becomes the most successful part of the film. It continues to swell throughout the film leading to one of the most uncomfortable scenes in film thanks to silence, a rejected request and where she stores the babysitting money.
That said, it’s ultimately unfulfilling. She Monkeys takes on a lot of genres, a lot of blends but a lot of bland too. Its short running time is another hindrance as the story’s progression feels cut short where it could explore the girls’ domination-submissive relationship much further. There’s a lot that’s asking to be explored but is instead short-changed. Though there’s a lot of genre mixing, the western genre never feels apparent except for the gratuitous tumbleweeds shots littered throughout. This coming-of-age drama may be different but what it accomplishes feels much weaker than a resonance it could have and should have inflicted on the audience. A distant attempt at something more personal.