Linnea, Ammu, and Eleonora the stars of “GIRL PICTURE”
The Academy will release the names of 15 finalists for Best International Feature Film on December 21st. One film we hope to see on that list if Finland’s absolutely wonderful Girl Picture. But even if the Academy passes it by (they’ve often been a little indifferent to films about teenagers) we’re certain it will stand the test of the time as one of the best youth films of the 2020s. We urge you all to see it if you haven’t yet as it’s readily available for rental on various platforms. We’ve been singing its praises to everyone who would listen since Sundance nearly a year ago when it won the World Cinema Audience Award.
Ben interviewed the director Alli this summer when the movie was released Recently as a kind of sequel, I sat down with the three leading actresses who bring this great movie and their characters so much emotion, humor, and authenticity…
How did they do it? Well, It was a collaborative effort of course! They praised the collaborative spirit of their director Alli Haapasalo and the screenplay by Ilona Ahti and Daniela Hakulinen but mostly once our conversation got going we focused in on the three characters they played.
What follows is an excerpt from out conversation, edited for clarity.
Girl Picture focuses entirely on three young girls on the cusp of adulthood: Hot tempered Mimmi (Aamu Milonoff) who struggles with her indifferent family; Mimmi’s funny best friend Rönkkö (Eleonoora Kauhanen) who is acting out sexually to try to figure herself out; And finally a driven ice skater named Emma (Linnea Leino) who begins dating Mimmi.
NATHANIEL R: This movie brought back all these memories that I’d forgotten about working with a close friend in the mall when I was a teenager. The rapport between Mimmi and Rönkkö at their little smoothie shop was just so organic and joyful to watch. How did you two work that out?
ELEONOORA (“Rönkkö): We were supposed to have a separate rehearsal for the smoothie bar. You have to know where everything is and how to actually prepare the fruit and make the smoothies and…
AAMU (“Mimmi”): Exactly. It’s actually very hard to cut bananas screen when people are filming you!
ELEONOORA: I think the rapport is probably because we had such a good sense of the relationship between Mimi and Rönkkö and we could like adapt that to how they work together.
AAMU: In the rehearsal process, we talked a lot about how they speak with each other, how they communicate, how they touch — like what is their language of being close friends? And because that was so clear, everything worked out in. Like everything.
Eleonoora, Linnea, and Ammu [src: Eleonoora’s instagram]
It was incredible. I took a bunch of my closest friends to see the movie. We all just felt it and related even though we’re a lot older than you guys. Were you thinking of any favourite coming-of-age movies while you were working?
LINNEA (“Emma”): We all watched a documentary together… why am I forgetting the title?
AAMU: It was All this Panic (2016).
LINNEA: Yeah, All this Panic. It’s about teenagers in New York. It was an excellent reference for all of us, in terms of what Aamu was just talking about — how teenagers are together, how they, like, touch and how they are always like, just in like weird positions [poses awkwardly] just like this, like hanging out. Not just sitting normally. I had those pictures in my head when we were filming.
I’m a big fan of Nordic cinema in general and I think the films made there about young people are really smart. When Hollywood makes films about being a teenager…
ELEONOORA: The cool guys, the nerds, the cheerleaders. You get the makeover and then you’re popular.
Exactly. Nordic cinema … and European cinema too really… is just so much more honest and nuanced about coming of age and that time period in life. Any theories as to why that is?
LINNEA: Our movies — if you think about the scale and our budgets, we’re not making this huge movie. So we’re putting all the efforts into the most important stuff. [Laughs] I don’t know.
AAMU: My theory is that we are not afraid to focus on very small feelings and very small details. Some would say that Girl Picture is a small movie. But it’s actually huge because we’re crossing boundaries. It doesn’t have to be big… something massive doesn’t need to happen for it to be relatable.
LINNEA: Yeah. You might say we’re daring to be quite specific.
That’s totally it. If you’re hyper-specific you get to the universality somehow. You guys are so smart. I love these answers.
Okay, so the movie has been warmly received internationally so what’s happened for your careers? Do you have projects lined up? Are your careers exploding?
Aamu Milonoff photographed by Ilka Saastamoinen.
LINNEA LEINO photographed by Karoliina Barlund
ELEONOORA KAUHANEN. Photographed by Paula Elina Kaskimaa
LINNEA: Well, they’re not skyrocketing yet. [Laughs]
AAMU: In Finland, there aren’t many movies or series produced in a single year so…
LINNEA: Girl Picture has been a huge thing in Finland but the industry is quite small, so most of the people — well, you already know them!
Well, I can’t wait to see what you all do next. Since the movie is about young girls are you getting a lot of feedback from teenagers in Finland?
LINNEA: We’ve gotten so much. There weren’t many teenagers at the premiere but at other screenings. People and teenagers come up to us crying and just being super thankful. It’s been amazing to hear that they see themselves in the characters that we are playing. It’s been great.
ELEONOORA: The most memorable thing for me is that I’ve received messages from people that have told me how important the movie was to them as asexuals or demisexuals. We don’t come to a conclusion in the film about how Rönkkö identifies — we don’t explicitely state that she’s asexual, but she could be. But a few people who identify in that spectrum have told me that they felt that they’d seen themselves for the very first time onscreen.
I know you’re not your characters but you did help develop them. So where are each of you most like and most different from your individual characters?
LINNEA: Well, I am quite harsh with myself, as Emma is, and I also just love, love, love my mom . So her relationship with her family. I was really excited for my mom to see the film. I was like ‘mom, look, its just like us’. How am I different? Emma is much more hardworking than I am. She is working her ass off. I don’t know if I could do that.
ELEONOORA: …says the girl who spent hours traveling between cities and training for it from 10:30 to midnight.
LINNEA: You know? Okay. Okay, that’s true. I trained for the movie for three months, with a private coach, for the ice skating scenes. \Okay. I’m also hardworking. I see a lot of myself in Emma. How am I different? Well, I’ll go to parties and I will be at the party until the very end. So that’s certainly different! [Laughs]
AAMU: I very much recognize myself in Mimmi in that she’s very sensitive and the all the emotions come out like very very big. Not the aggression so much but the urgency, and the explosions. I recognize that especially from my youth. You just feel so much. It’s easier to like shout it out because you can’t, you know, figure it out.
When you play a character, you always want the best for them and you kind of start to like all of their parts. But I think the way that I’m different is that Mimmi is very strident about her own opinion. She doesn’t kind of see everyone else’s very clearly.
Okay. and finally Rönkkö / Eleanor.
ELEONOORA: Well, I’m obviously very bubbly like Rönkkö, so that’s one similarity. The thing I responded to the most with her is her urgency to solve her identity. For example, when I was younger I would change my style a lot. I would sometimes be romantic and other times I was in a hoodie and I felt like ‘okay, NO, I can’t do this. I can’t change my style. I have to fix this’. I would try to solve myself. So I think I learned a lot, um, from playing Rönkkö. You can be incomplete and things can take time and imperfections can be beautiful.
But she’s kind of socially awkward as we see in the film. That’s very different. I can talk to all kinds of people very easily.