In Cinemas

Cocoon review – stylish and thoughtful German coming-of-ager

Filmmaker Leonie Krippendorff helms this sun-kissed portrait of a teenage girl's sexual awakening with a refreshingly light touch

The first flush of teen self-discovery will never stop making for potent storytelling material, because every person’s experience is bound to be different. What one individual will recognise in a coming-of-ager from France, another might see as brand new. It’s this kind of specificity that gives Leonie Krippendorff’s sun-kissed story Cocoon its energy, following one 14-year-old schoolgirl as she falls in love with another.

This story of sexual awakening finds its home in present-day Berlin, here captured through a lens of hazy nostalgia without trivialising or romanticising the anxieties of Nora (rising star Lena Urzendowsky), our protagonist. In telling this teenager's story, Krippendorff marries stylish design with lucid growing pains, making for a sober, engaging watch.

Nora’s journey is one of growth, that sees her blossom – caterpillars and butterflies are littered throughout, pointing to Krippendorff’s penchant for a good metaphor – as an individual whilst grappling with her sexuality. Her first period is framed realistically – neither faux empowering nor totally cataclysmic. Things happen in ways that are messy, confusing and often just lonely.

Her sexuality, too, is more than some tiny but powerful inkling buzzing around in a trapped jar. Nora doesn’t know what she wants, what’s normal, what’s good or bad. She learns slowly, which is why her meeting with Romy (Jella Haase, in a powerhouse performance), the girl who changes everything, rightly occurs 30 minutes into the film.

Their story is warm and charming – full of hope, without pretending to change the course of the world. There are familiar beats in Cocoon, yet transposed to modern-day Germany this story suddenly seems brand new. Specificity matters: so while we can add this to a canon some of us already know and feel at home with, it's never a bad thing when these stories travel a little further.

Cocoon is showing in cinemas from 11 December.

Where to watch

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