Life is pretty bleak in this concrete jungle of soulless tower blocks of shabby apartments on this housing complex in a poor rundown suburb of Paris.

Sixteen-year-old Marieme is hoping that one day she will break out of there so for a better life so she does her school work, plays American football, and then goes home to look after her younger siblings whilst her mother is out all hours doing cleaning jobs to keep the family together.

However when Marieme learns that her grades are not enough to continue high school she gives up being a good girl and falls in with a gang of three girls who seem to wreak havoc wherever they go. At first, Marieme sits on the sidelines observing the girls led by a real toughie who calls herself Lady, but she soon gets drawn into their questionable activities when they slack off school every day. She swaps her braids for a more glam look and starts copying their more outrageous dress style. It’s not long until she is the one menacing other kids on their way to school to relieve them of every cent they have to fund the gang’s nefarious agenda.

They use the money to check into a hotel to try on all the clothes they have stolen from the mall, get wasted on a diet of booze and pot noodles, and give a full rendition of Rihanna’s Diamonds. It’s their idea of a high life, sad as it is.

Things change when Lady gets roundly beaten in a fight with a member of another gang, so an emboldened Marieme … known by the girls as Vic … steps up to the plate and takes on the victor and beats her up. It delights Djibril one of her brother’s friends who she has been hooking up with in secret, but it infuriates her bully of a brother, and when he threatens her, she knows it is time to leave home.

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In this situation the only way out is to start selling drugs, which she does for another gang in return for a share in a safe house in another neighbourhood. As tough she has become, this is very much a man’s world, and despite all her efforts, she is still a girl.

It’s the third feature from French filmmaker Céline Sciamma and although it doesn’t quite have the same resonance of her award-winning Tomboy but it does nevertheless pack a powerful punch. It’s a bleak grim reality that these tough bad girls inhabit and come-of-age in but Sciamma does at least infuse it with a glimmer of hope…. and some compassion too. It’s zillion years away from the cosy life of Boyhood!

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