In the past year, European body horror movies told through the experiences of young teenage girls have been become cult hits, movies like Raw and Thelma have appealed to viewers beyond Norway and France. Now Switzerland’s Blue My Mind looks set to join that growing list.
Fifteen year old Mia (Luna Wedler) has just moved into a new home and started at a new school when her father takes up a new job. Mia experiences the same problems many young teenagers face: her relationship with her parents is at a low, and she wants to be friends at school with the cool but unruly students. As if that was not enough, her body is going through puberty and her body begins to change; in more than just the obvious ways that affect a girl’s body. Mia is starting to grow webbing between her toes and getting the taste for her mother’s goldfish and a swig of salt water. As her body continues to change, her behaviour and antics become more erratic and extreme as she tries to cope.
Director Lisa Brühlmann tries to thread the needle of a body horror and coming of age story. The difficulty the movie will face is finding the audience that will connect with it. The themes of growing up and the challenges and mistakes that come with it will be universal and relatable to a younger crowd, the horror imagery and transformation is standard horror fan viewing but some of the more graphic sexual imagery and acts, especially with a character who is fifteen years old, will make many feel at best somewhat uncomfortable in their seats. It certainly is to be applauded how brave the movie is and the provocative choices would never find their way into nearly any American release.
Mia becomes unrecognisable in her behaviour towards her parents, and begins to question her heritage. It is challenging enough for a teenager to fit in but the pressure of not knowing where you come from only adds to it. Mia begins to shoplift, guzzle vodka, and actively look to lose her virginity and be with any male that shows her attention, even if it is for exploitation. In an absurd moment in a serious of many others, Mia and her friends take MDMA on a school trip to a very dated theme park. All the behaviour continues to spiral and escalate as the transformation takes hold, you are screaming for Mia to seek help in a professional or a doctor, and not with the embrace of despicable men and drink.
Luna Welder’s Mia makes friends with Gianna, portrayed by model and actress, Zoë Pastelle Holthuizen, who also shines. In the madness of the plot and what is asked of them as young actresses, they are both confident, vulnerable and relatable in equal measure. The good-girl-gone-rogue and lead astray by a gang of troublesome girls is not new but the movie rightly jettisons the other two members of the school group and focuses on Mia and Gianna as they try to feel their way round each other and through the transformation; the dynamic echoes that of Girlhood. Gianna is a fierce social queen and her hardened exterior and sharp tongue betray her kindness and as Mia transforms, as does Mia as we see the kind and selfless person she is.
The metamorphosis is well telegraphed physically but the sound design and cinematography all play their roles. The fish tank that Mia regularly feasts from bubbles away and the use of blues and greys, echoing the Atlantic ocean that opens the film.
Blue My Mind will be a challenge for many people in the audience who have paid to see it for either the body horror or a teenage coming of age story. Blue My Mind is a brave and bold movie, it should be applauded and given a chance, even if some of the creative choices prove difficult for some viewers to stomach.