The Movie Waffler New Release Review [DVD/VOD] - COCOON | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [DVD/VOD] - COCOON

cocoon review
In a blisteringly hot Berlin summer, an awkward teenager falls for an older girl.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Leonie Krippendorf

Starring: Lena Urzendowsky, Jella Haase, Lena Klenke, Elina Vildanova

cocoon poster

The opening sequences of Cocoon, writer/director Leonie Krippendorff’s German coming of age drama which focuses on the sexual and social awakening of sweetly awkward Nora (Lena Urzendowsky), are irritatingly composed of the portraited, yute suggestive angles of mobile phone footage: teens laughing, running, enjoying themselves in the sun. The chirpy, but dull, montage is like something only the most unimaginative TikToker would bother to put together, and belies the warmth, humour and freshness of this rather lovely film. In fact, the impenetrable façade of the film’s opening is in itself a bit like a, you know, rough husk which, yes, conceals the burgeoning joy and life within! In fact, watching this film unfold at its own gentle, inelegant pace has been one of the welcome surprises of the year so far.

cocoon review

Despite her liminal status within her world, like Kayla in Eighth Grade or the kids in Booksmart, Nora is one of those movie girls who are in vogue at the moment; heroines who exist just to the side of mainstream high-school life. She has friends yet is uneasy around them. She is cripplingly shy. And her burgeoning sexuality is a terrifying mystery to her.

Krippendorff’s film soon eschews the obtuse mobile phone framing for a gorgeous visual style which serves to contextualise Nora. We see shots of Berlin (arguably the world’s best city) both at night and in searing sunshine, with Nora often posed on rooftop parties or poolside gatherings, a symbolic representation of her threshold state (at times the camera dips beneath the water and swims with the teens - this is a film that is in love with the energy of youth and cinema). It is sink or swim, fly or die time for Nora, who, like the caterpillars she collects in the film’s most charmingly on-the-nose metaphor, is about to undergo vivid change.

cocoon review

Part of this change is physical, with poor old Nora coming on during a PE lesson, and being the last person to notice that her shorts are soaked with menses. This mortifying scene is handled authentically - the kids are dicks about it, Nora is gutted, but, at the same time, it is just one of those things that happens, and which turns out not be impossible to get over.

The lack of hyperbole in Cocoon is refreshing and makes its drama all the more immersive. Furthermore, what is also narratively intriguing is that Krippendorff draws Nora’s world so richly that any number of plot lines could be pursued: the alcoholism of Nora and her slightly older sister’s mum, the aggressive nature of the boys in school (I love how the abundant ensemble scenes feel so real), or the tentative feelings that Nora has for local hipster Romy (Jella Haase), who is simply as cool as fuck and the sort of person we all had crushes on in high school.

cocoon review

Of course, the film plumps for the latter narrative pursuit: after all, isn’t that true to the heady, real-life preoccupations of its teen characters? What makes Cocoon such a sincere pleasure is its affection for its subject matter, warts and all. A cursory glance at Cocoon’s critical reception shows that reviewers have lauded the film for its supposed worthy gay themes, but what seems to have been missed is the humour in Krippendorff’s representations. In one scene, Nora talks to her teacher about the feelings she is experiencing regarding other girls. Her teacher kindly suggests that these feelings are not unnatural and implicitly admits to Nora that she, too, is a lesbian. Nora doesn’t get it though and prattles on in that obliquely self-absorbed manner of teenagers: as if Nora is the only other person in the world to have ever had these feelings! And then another when Romy does a cringeworthy class presentation (images of bombs going off set to 'Space Oddity'): Nora sits transfixed to the jejune pretence, even when the lunch bell rings and everyone else gratefully rushes out of the room. I’m smiling thinking about it! Cocoon is a film where the contagious affection for its characters extends to their foibles and flaws. Floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee.

Cocoon is on UK VOD, DVD and blu-ray from January 25th.

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