Cocoon: Review. By Trent Neely.
This German film follows Nora (Lena Urzendowsky) a young teen during the record hot summer of 2018. Nora spends most of her time with her older sister Jule (Lena Klenke) going to the pool and hanging out with Jule’s friends. While Jule does not love having her younger sister hanging out with her and her friends, as it leads to some embarrassing moments from time to time, we soon learn that they depend on each other.
Their mother struggles with alcoholism and is often not around or attentive. In addition, Nora is beginning to go through puberty and must adapt to her changing body as well as emerging romantic and sexual feelings, particularly for fellow schoolmate Romy (Jella Haase). The film follows Nora during this summer of change as she grows, navigates relationships with those around her, and begins to realize who she is and what she wants in life.
Writer and director Leonie Krippendorff crafts a strong and intimate character study. This film is Nora’s story through and through. Krippendorff does not shy away from all the realities of adolescence. The awkward and frightening, such as when Nora gets her first period during school. This moment is shown without any sense of sugarcoating, it is simply a necessary milestone of maturing, humiliating as it can be. By contrast, the euphoria falling in love and growing more confident in your own skin is highlighted just as much. This commitment to showing things as they really are and avoiding many cliches and stereotypes, helps to ensure this film stands out among other entries in the coming-of-age genre.
Krippendorff also makes great use of symbolism in the film by having Nora be a student and collector of caterpillars. At various points throughout the film, Nora makes reference to the life cycle and metamorphosis a caterpillar undergoes. Not only does this serve as the source of the film’s title, it mirrors Nora’s own story of growth and change.
While great direction and writing are needed for a character-driven story, the performances here are what truly serves as the film’s anchor. Particularly noteworthy is Urzendowsky who perfectly captures every nuance of Nora’s journey as she goes from a shy girl somewhat trapped in her older sister’s shadow, timid in voice and physical presence, to a young woman who begins to express herself and open herself up to new people and experiences as she grows more confident. Urzendowsky’s chemistry with Klenke is a highlight. The pair expertly display the dynamic of sisters who bicker, annoy, and mess with each other, but when one of them truly has a moment of need for the other, the bond and love is shown to be true.
The relationship between Nora and Romy is another strong point of the film. Contrasting Urzendowsky’s initial timidness as Nora, Haase’s Romy is a character who already possesses a level of excitement and confidence that she brings into Nora’s world, resulting in some of the film’s best scenes.
The cinematography by Martin Neumeyer is another standout. The camera is frequently handheld and mobile, allowing the audience to feel like they are on Nora’s journey with her, even during her most intimate moments. This is not done in a way that is objectifying, but serves as to bring the viewer into her headspace and experience. The cinematography also helps in selling the environment of the story. As the film is set during a record heat, scenes taking place outdoors highlight the saturation of the sun, tempting the viewer to squint and look away.
If you are looking for a film that features a realistic portrayal of the highs and lows of adolescence with strong writing, characters, performances, and cinematography watch this film if given the chance.
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