Amelie has been away and traveling throughout New Zealand when she returns home, aiming to reconnect and celebrate with her friends Maude and Pascale. The trio decides to escape to a secluded cabin, where they party it up.
But time and distance have changed things subtly between the three friends. Amelie and Pascale find themselves vying for Maude’s attention and favor, in different ways: Amelie has control over the logistics of the situation while Pascale has a bold, seductive personality. The underlying tension begins to rise to the surface, but as conflicts become more overt, the power plays become more twisted and unexpected.
Writer-director Marie Davignon’s layered, complex psychological drama explores the hidden complexities of female friendship at a time in life when connection, desire and rivalry can blur together in unexpected, unpredictable ways.
This dark, quicksilver quality of female adolescence is evoked at all levels of the film’s craftsmanship, starting with the luminous naturalism of the film’s considerable cinematography. Placing the film’s action within the secluded woods emphasizes the sense of an isolated realm where anything can — and does — happen, an uncanny, liminal space between adolescence and adulthood, or even the libidinal and the repressed.
Within this cordoned-off narrative arena, the three friends vie for favor and alliances with one another. The performances of the three actors are uniformly excellent, and each moment is electric and alive with possibility and danger between them, as each character negotiates friendship and power among one another.
The triangulation of a group of friends and the shifting mosaic of loyalties is classic terrain in stories of friendship, but this narrative feels particularly sinister, both visually and as the plot unfolds — and each character’s full agenda comes to the fore and the rivalry turns dangerous.
Watching “Girlfriends” becomes an increasingly unsettling experience, and it speaks to its skillful buildup of suspense and tension that it could veer off believably into straight horror territory in many key points. There are no hidden monsters in the woods, though — only the monsters of jealousy, anger and revenge when our most intimate and innermost selves are challenged. And when they’re unleashed, they can leave a wake of destruction in their path, although how the carnage expresses itself is often unexpected.