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Water Lilies Reviews

First-time writer-director Celine Sciamma's modest coming of age film revolves around the sexual awakenings of three 15-year-old French girls. Floriane (Adele Haenel), Marie (Pauline Acquart) and Anne (Louise Blachere) live in a non-descript suburban town and swim at the same pool. Marie, who hides her nascent beauty under messy hair and tomboyish clothes, is best friends with chubby Anne, who's determined to lose her virginity to local heartthrob Francois (Warren Jacquin). But he's already dating beautiful Floriane, who belongs to a synchronized swimming team and has a reputation as a tramp. And Marie only has eyes for Floriane, though she hasn't quite come to grips with what she wants from her. In order to ingratiate herself to the object of her as yet sublimated affections, Marie feigns interest in the swim team; Floriane beneficently invites her to attend rehearsals. Against the odds of rigid teen social mores, they actually become friends and Marie eventually becomes privy to Floriane's dark secret: Not only is she not the wanton tramp of envious gossip, but she's still a virgin -- though not for lack of pressure from Francois. Though the material is familiar, Sciamma has a light touch and avoids many teen-movie cliches. Her girls aren't hyperverbal – in fact, they're the opposite, guarded and always listening for cues before they reveal themselves in words. They're not obsessed with pop culture or constantly arguing with their parents – adults are so peripheral to their day-to-day emotional lives that we never see them. And Sciamma finds a surprisingly rich metaphor in synchronized swimming, which demands superficial beauty and hidden strength; above the surface, everything is graceful patterns and serene faces that belie the churning legs below.