An initially whimsical look into the lives of two Parisian Jewish girls born on the same day, from the awkwardness of childhood to the dullness and desperation of adolescence, Mina Tannenbaum has some serious points to make about women’s lives and the rifts that open up as we enter adulthood.
Mina and Ethel are two girls with strong imaginations and rich, often fabulous inner lives, whose family backgrounds and outlooks are very different; as teens, they struggle doggedly to see each other’s points of view, largely because their various emotional and physical imperfections mean they rely on each other, but as grown women, the time and inclination to understand each other falls away.
While the film’s elements of Amelie-like lightness and tragic melodrama don’t always sit well together (the same tension that makes a lot of 90s French films slightly indigestible) the film is at its best when laying bare the two young women’s insecurities about themselves. The film doesn’t need any extra tragedy laid on- its sadness is partly drawn from the flighty and determined Ethel’s triumph over Mina, who overthinks everything and, despite her artistic talent, is racked by insecurities. It’s a reminder not to overlook or underestimate the Minas of this world, even when others are easier to love and shout a little louder. Its final frames are an eloquent plea for time, attention and understanding, particularly in a fast-moving world shaped by the ambitions and desires of others.