Lisa Brühlmann / Switzerland / 2017 / 97 mins
Part of Glasgow Film Festival 2018
Swiss production Blue My Mind begins with the familiar feel of a filmic Bildungsroman. Protagonist Mia is fifteen, in a new high school, alienated from her peers and at odds with her parents – the usual tropes. Gradually, though, a sense of otherness begins to permeate key scenes and it becomes apparent that we’re dealing with a hybrid genre: coming-of-age meets magic realism.
The plot centres on Mia’s transition into puberty and its surrounding fallout. She befriends a trio of raucous girls in her class, dabbles in shoplifting, begins drinking and spirals into sexual promiscuity, occasionally with frightening consequences. In Blue My Mind, though, Mia’s body is changing in ways unfamiliar to either the audience or anyone in the world of the film, least of all Mia herself. Slowly we begin to piece together the alarming puzzle that, thankfully, neither the trailer nor any of the film’s marketing gives away (and neither shall this review). Without revealing too much, the makeup team have a particularly important role here, creating disturbingly impressive effects in a handful of scenes that encourage us either to lean forward and peer more closely or to wince and look away.
Luna Wedler is effective as the introverted teenager suffering serious inner conflict. She plays the torment vividly throughout and her fragility is made blatant to us. A problem for some viewers, though, will be that there isn’t much warmth to the character. Mia is consistently fraught but is also conveyed as unfriendly and even callous at points. Her parents also seem too distant. Perhaps this has been engineered to echo their limited significance from Mia’s perspective but it feels like the layers of their relationship could have been mined further. At one point, her father mentions Mia going to therapy “again”, but this is never expanded on or returned to. Hints at Mia’s ancestry also never carry through to a satisfying reveal for the audience. Although the final scenes are memorable and create a cyclical feel to the film – employing colour, setting and water imagery to reflect the opening – it’s not quite the denouement we’ve been waiting for.
Blue My Mind delivers a fresh and unique addition to the coming-of-age canon. However, it doesn’t ever feel moving as it could be. It might leave us provoked on an intellectual level, but not necessarily an emotional one.