Our teenage years are the chrysalis period of our life, a pivot between our child and adult self. This idea of transformation, of transition, makes it no wonder that monstrous metaphors depicting extreme bodily and psychological changes have already been used in the coming-of-age genre.
The most recent example is probably Julia Ducournau’s Raw, in which a young woman’s emancipation from her parents turns her desires into literal cravings of flesh. With Blue My Mind, Swiss director Lisa Brühlmann (“Flugge (Short)”, “Peripherie”) follows these footsteps but still brings her own twist to the coming-of-age tale through the story of 15-years-old Mia, Luna Wedler (“Streaker”, “Lina”), the new girl in school who has to navigate through teenage social structures while her body undergoes a drastic evolution that sets her all the more apart from her peers.
While Blue My Mind shows these physical changes in all their glory, with impressive make-up work and special effects, Brühlmann is definitely shyer than Ducournau when it comes to body horror. She limits the visual horror only to accentuate what matters: the anxiety, doubts, secrets and overall plain weirdness that surrounds Mia’s transformation and that anyone who went through puberty can relate to.
Like many teenage dramas, Mia’s life quickly spirals down: drugs and chaotic relationships with men slowly become her new normal, something far more terrifying than the supernatural transformation at the heart of the film. In a way, this is where the horror comes from, far more than from the protagonist’s own changing body.
Luna Wedler’s performance brings out both the vulnerability and bravery of her character, subtly letting us see through the cracks of a lost teenager who tries her hardest to fit in.
The other actors also bring their best to the side characters, but these characters are never developed enough to create a compelling ensemble. Mia’s conflict with her parents (played by Regula Grauwiller (“Cargo”, “Cascadeur”) and Georg Scharegg (“Going Private”, “Tatort (TV)”) rings true but could have been dug deeper, just like her friendship with Gianna, Zoë Pastelle Holthuizen (“Amateur Teens”,”Sono Pippa (Short)”), the popular girl.
There is a clear bond between the two that the film tries to sell as a powerful relationship that overcomes all the rest, yet it never feels earned. By the end of the film, it feels like something is missing.
As the title suggests, the color blue is an important part of Blue My Mind: the number of scenes that didn’t include the color in one way or another could probably be counted on one hand. Even when no blue is present on screen, it is instead a dirty yellow that covers the frame: with both colors being complementary, even when absent, blue is still on our mind (no pun intended).
The overabundance of this one color is thematically relevant but tends to make the film look dull; fortunately, it is most of the time saved by beautiful shot compositions and cinematography.
Blue My Mind builds on the monstrous teenage-hood film canon with intelligence and originality. The parsimonious use of body horror will satisfy both lovers of the subgenre and more reticent viewers; all, hopefully, coming together to enjoy a first feature that showcases great talent both in front and behind the camera.