Girls who know it all

15th April 2005 at 01:00
Girls in tears. DVD. review rating (out of 5): ****

Early in the new DVD film Girls in Tears, teenager Ellie sits on her bed and muses: "It's funny how you can look forward to something so much, and you get all you want and more besides, and it just feels so empty."

It is the perfect, one-sentence encapsulation of what it is to be a teenager: wistful, demanding and constantly disappointed by life. But one would expect nothing less from the pen of Jacqueline Wilson, the perennially popular children's author, on whose teenage novel Girls in Tears is based. It tells the story of 13-year-old Ellie, who lives in an unmistakably Wilson world. Her non-traditional family, with father, young stepmother and new baby brother, is stressed but loving. She may fall into teenage strops and yell at her parents, but afterwards both parties apologise and discuss the situation maturely.

Not for Ellie and her two best friends, Nadine and Magda, the joys of drink-fuelled parties or underage sex. Instead, they go bowling, sip sparkling grape juice on special occasions and remove breakable objects before the party begins.

Girls in Tears sees Ellie dealing with a series of standard teenage tribulations: birthday parties, work experience and cheating boyfriends.

But the joy of the film comes from the fact that these events are shot through with truth and knowing humour. All teenagers and former teens will recognise the misguided sense of adulthood that leads Magda to turn up for work experience dressed in a boob-tube and mini-skirt. They will also relate to the sense of mortification when Ellie finds herself slap in the middle of the talk with her father.

At points, this knowingness is taken too far. Few 13-year-olds would take time out to ponder that "life is like a see-saw". And tear-jerking scenes involving Ellie speaking to her dead mother's photo come across as cynically manipulative. But, as always in Ms Wilson's books, Ellie's world is irresistibly engaging, for adults as well as children. A fashion adviser who complains that "Kate Moss was never this difficult", could be speaking for parents of teenagers everywhere.

And, when a 20-something reviewer starts yelling "bastard!" at the TV screen, in anger at Ellie's cheating boyfriend, you know you're onto a winner.

Girls in Tears is released on April 18

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