Whilst coming-of-age films with female protagonists are nothing new to European cinema, in America they’re only really a recent phenomenon. When they were made, they’ve tended to fall into specific genres such as comedy (Juno) or horror (Carrie). However, Marielle Heller and Kelly Fremon Craig broke the mould with The Diary of a Teenage Girl and Edge of Seventeen respectively, choosing to introduce their leads as strong independent characters. In the superb Princess Cyd, director Stephen Cone follows a more European model; sticking to a largely dramatic path.
After the death of her mother, sixteen-year-old Cyd (Jessie Pinnick) is living in South Carolina with her depressive father. To escape the dreariness of her life, her aunt Miranda (Rebecca Spence), who she hasn’t seen since she was a child, is persuaded to let Cyd stay in Chicago with her for the summer. A famous novelist, Miranda has eschewed a sexual existence in favour of literature, religion and food. Cyd discovers a whole new world of delights in the Windy City, allowing her curiosity to drive her decisions. Living together, they both begin to learn from each other and open up to new experiences.
Princess Cyd is a wonderful drama which avoids all the usual clichés and instead concentrates on the sensuality, sexuality and curiosity of youth. It has a sense of authenticity which makes it stand-out from other teen dramas. Jessie Pinnick brilliantly captures the confusion, excitement, anxiety and hedonism of youth. There’s no great melodrama or life-changing events, just two people learning to live life from each other. Princess Cyd is a beautifully assured drama which launches a major new talent.
Princess Cyd screens at London Film Festival on 10 & 12 October.