If you think you’ve seen everything the coming-of-age narrative style has to offer, you haven’t seen director Lisa Bruhlmann’s fantastical, surreal debut film, Blue My Mind, which premiered at IFC’s What the Fest!? tonight.
The story follows Mia (Luna Wedler), a 15-year-old late-bloomer who is trying to make an impression on the cool girls at her new school. After a few fruitless attempts, Mia finally catches the attention of Gianna (Zoë Pastelle Holthuizen), the leader of the clique and a lawless party girl with whom Mia is completely fascinated. As she earns her way into Gianna’s good graces, Mia must also come to terms with experiencing puberty and its effects on her rapidly transforming body. With these changes come new urges, desires, and disturbing, unsavory habits. Mia is coming into her own, despite her many efforts to thwart the terrifying process.
Although Blue My Mind doesn’t completely reinvent the wheel, the story can only be described as unique. A mix of Ducournau’s Raw (sans cannibalism) with a healthy dose of Hardwicke’s ever-controversial Thirteen, Bruhlmann manages to weave a harrowing, compelling tale of self-discovery, friendship, and trying desperately to appear average despite glaring, bizarre differences. Relatedly, Mia experiences several rites-of-passage we’ve seen in countless films before, yet Blue My Mind feels as unpredictable as if this were the first story of its kind.
While Blue My Mind is a drama at its core, the film introduces enough body horror elements to keep genre fans satisfied. Beyond that, the terror is not found in the film’s imagery. Instead, it stems from the anxiety the audience shares with Mia as she discovers her body may be taking on unexpected qualities, as well as finding herself in increasingly dangerous situations. We are taken on a gripping ride of teenage alcoholism, drug abuse, risky sex, and excessive partying, and through it all we grow to care for Mia more than she cares for herself.
Not to be overlooked is Luna Wedler as the extraordinary Mia. Wedler succeeds in maintaining a key balance between vulnerability and fearlessness. There are moments when we can see the scared girl behind Mia’s cool facade, and moments, too, where we see the headstrong child beneath the mature exterior. Mia is just trying to live life on her own terms, in spite of nature’s plans for her, and Wedler gets this point across admirably. This role could have been laughable and over-the-top if left to the devices of a less savvy actress, but Wedler takes on Mia’s challenges with no signs of reservations, delivering on all counts. Not only is she believable, but she is engaging and mysterious, keeping viewers tucked snugly in her pocket throughout the film.
Rich cinematography (although a bit too on-the-nose with the use of the color blue) comes together with excellent special effects and makeup to bring us this inspired piece of filmmaking. Visually, Blue My Mind is equal parts beautiful and wonderfully repulsive. Even in scenes where not much is happening, such as a moment when the two girls are passed out on a train platform, the shots are composed with style, care, and attention to detail. The eyes of those who see this film will, undoubtedly, be wandering around the screen, taking in the artistry of each frame.
Blue My Mind is a prime example of a film which transcends genre and succeeds no matter which avenue it explores. Mia’s story is strange, fascinating, and, at times, brutal. Those open to an outlandish twist on a body horror-lite film will be captivated by this stunning debut.
The film is premiering at IFC’s What The Fest!? on March 31, 2018
Warning: Trailer contains a major plot spoiler.