In an era before children could document their private lives on social media, Minnie (Bel Powley) records her most inner thoughts on a pile of old cassette tapes. It’s the 70s and she’s 14 years old and sleeping with her mother’s boyfriend Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård). The affair supposedly unfolds right under the nose of Minnie’s mother (Kristin Wiig) – a poor reflection on the mother’s child rearing skills let alone her ability to keep tabs on her own boyfriend.
Yet here we find them sitting in the kitchen, the mother unaware of her boyfriend’s predatory relationship with her daughter. Perhaps it’s symptomatic of her own insecurities and narcissism. The film plays out a sad reality that adults are often incapable of looking after themselves let alone their children. The only real maturity separating the mother from her daughter is the money she has from her first marriage. The adults have financial security to look after their children, while their emotional security is left frozen in the teenage romanticism experienced by people who watch too many back-to-back episodes of daytime soap operas. They wait to be figuratively swept off their feet by their prince, and find themselves figuratively and literally sweeping the floor of a loveless marriage instead.
Minnie’s mother Charlotte sits casually dragging on her cigarette, while Minnies attempts to digest a sandwich hoping her mother does not realise what is happening. Furthermore, Charlotte, completely unaware of the debauchery, is blindly pushing her daughter towards chasing boys. She regales stories of her own youthful exploits, especially with the girl’s father. You begin to wonder whether some form of reverse Oedipus syndrome may take place.
It’s this type of emotional neglect, born from parents own self obsession, that causes the over-sexed teens to pursue the unhealthiest of human relationships. It’s Minnie’s awareness of her own exploitation by Monroe, which becomes most unsettling. Aware enough of being a victim, yet seeking solace, validation and fulfilment of her curiosity through a brutal coming-of-age. Despite her confident bravado, plus the notion she thinks she is the seductress of the older Monroe, this is a film about paedophilia.
It’s more and more uncomfortable at every turn. Knowing it’s based on the semi-autobiographical book by Phoebe Gloeckner makes it all the more concerning yet intriguing at the same time. Handled with careful respect by Marielle Heller’s screenplay and direction; this is a film that adults, young girls and young boys should see to understand better the respect we should show each other’s emotions and bodies.