SIFF Encore - Silent Girls by Ric Aw

The symbol of a heart has been often been used in school as a way to represent a whole array of feelings that we may not even be able to fully comprehend at that time, such as love, likes, fancies, crushes, lust, adoration etc. In the film Silent Girls, we see the heart drawing recklessly used at least 3 times, on a staircase wall, on a railing and in a scrapbook. But with each drawing, the meaning of it shifts.
Two girls go through self-discovery through a grey relationship shifting between simple friendship and love. While they devote a part of their hearts to each other, when left on their own, they continue to embark on a journey into uncovering sexuality alone. One is more idealistic and starts hanging out with a young guy (possibly a schoolmate). Like a case of male hormones working faster than female hormones, the guy cannot resist taking photos of her in her undies as well as doing the `real’ thing. We are not sure at this point that she completely trusts the guy but she still went ahead to give him her `first time’. Is it pressure? Is it ecological? Or is it directorial? We are never sure but the treatment might invite controversy because of the way it disempowers women. Like women lack the will or independence to discover sexuality for themselves.
If you take a look at the second example, it becomes even more unnerving because the other girl loses her `first time’ to a customer (male). The reasons for her doing so are not clear but right from the start, she has been the more adventurous one of the two. Why is she is such a hurry to grow up? For this, I felt the film could do with a hint of an explanation.
Despite their individual adventures, the girls always come back to each other, seeking a kind of emotional balance and solace. Through an exchange of simple words and warm embraces, they are redeemed again. But how empty they turn out to be when the girls get lured back into their individual expeditions again, with each episode topping the previous in terms of audacity. One eventually gets into trouble for having her erotic pictures and videos circulated on the internet. The other serially submits to the carnal desires of a working adult for more cash. Hence, with each subsequent reconcilliation between the girls, the meaning of their companionship shifts. Does it get deeper because they have exposed their basest qualities or does it it get thinner as they gradually become mutually irrelevant to each other's life?

While part of the answer could be found in the rather competent acting, I felt the director still held the bulk of the answer which was not always that clearly presented in the film.

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