Three Swedish fourteen-year-old girls, Kim (Tuva Jagell), Momo (Louise Nyvall) and Bella (Wilma Holmén) are fast friends, but they have been drawn together by the bullying they suffer at school, which is an everyday experience they could well do without. Their main tormentor is Jesper (Filip Vester), who rallies their peers into treating them as outcasts, and Kim especially wishes she could be a boy, if only for one day, just so she could sort them out on a level playing field - literally, in some cases. However, one day when they are in the greenhouse that belonged to Bella's late mother, she finds a seed she doesn't recognise and plants it; that night the girls suffer a restless sleep, and in the morning find a plant has grown from it - one with peculiar properties.
Girls Lost, or Pojkarna if you were Swedish, was yet another young adult novel adaptation for the big screen, and as usual it depicted its lead character as somehow special in a world that did not understand her. However, where the accustomed method of going about such a narrative was to divine some positives from the situation thanks to that essential special quality, here things were rather different, as Kim's sexual awakening causes nothing but misery both for herself and those around her. This was not the generally agreed take on gender issues, be they heterosexual, homosexual or transgender, as Kim comes to believe herself to be, that many would have depicted in a film aimed at that age group, however.
Indeed, the whole message appeared to be a warning that should you be struggling with your sexuality, better get used to it because it's only going to get worse, which was not exactly reassuring if you were enduring such matters. There was very little that came across as benefits from wanting to be a different sex, as director and writer Alexandra-Therese Keining was more interested in showing how there were issues with any identity you felt close to, and becoming an alternative one after not being happy with the one you were previously was no guarantee that it would suit you, a rather stern lesson that while sympathetic to her characters was undeniably harsh: it may have taken on fairy tale trappings, but it was bleak realism that asserted itself by the end.
That ending was notable in its refusal to offer contentment for anyone in the film, not to give anything away but you didn't know if there would be a rash of suicides in the wake of the magic flower or if, as you would hope, everyone would pull themselves together and get on with life and not be obsessed with their mentality to the point of terrible distraction. Maybe it was because this was a European film, and from the land that brought us Ingmar Bergman's chilly regard for the human condition, but it was a decidedly non-Hollywood sugaring of the themes we were served up with Girls Lost. The fact that it was very well acted by a collection of mostly newcomers and outright amateurs rendered it all the more worrying, for you could feel every weight in the pit of the stomach that the characters went through when circumstances did not go their way.
What happens is that plant exudes a juice which when drunk turns the three girls into boys. At first this is a lark and apparently changing sex makes them suddenly good at sport, which they never were before (this could be the fairy tale talking), but then Kim takes a fancy to a local bad lad, Tony (Mandus Berg), since he seems more exciting than hanging round with squares Momo and Bella. Again, the message here was confusing, probably deliberately so, as we can see no improvement in Kim when she likes being a boy as she essentially turns to petty crime which according to this is what males get up to when unfettered by society's boring old rules. We really don't like Kim now, and to make matters worse Momo falls for her in her boyish state which neither of them can handle, leaving Kim nonplussed as to whether she is straight, gay or something else. The most you could take away from Girls Lost was that psychiatric care needed all the funding it could get if this was an accurate representation of what many were struggling with, and not only with gender, any kind of identity crisis; it was not a happy experience to watch. Music by Sophia Ersson.