Barbie Film Review: Notes from Barbie on the ageing girlhood and the dread of being.

Sumaiya Chowdhure reviews the biggest movie of 2023: Barbie! Read what the film means to so many girls and women......

With the release of Greta Gerwig’s most anticipated film of 2023, the world dreams sweet in cowboy hats and pink nostalgia as Barbie navigates the haunt of an imperfect girlhood.

A running theme across Greta’s filmography and her own characters in films such as Frances Ha and Mistress America, is their intimate exploration of the female experience that is a whirlwind of lightness and melancholy, and Barbie is no exception to this. Expect to be taken on a pink odyssey of coming into age accompanied by satire, laughs, a few tears, and a new meaning to being Girls.

What makes Greta the comfort filmmaker of our time is her brave storytelling, in that her characters mould the lengths of vulnerability into the female experience that is true and reminiscent of our world.

In Frances Ha, for example, Greta’s character is a 27-year-old dancer, where a girl is expected to be much more established. However, Frances teaches us there’s nothing wrong with simply dancing through the growing pains because opportunities will present themselves. What matters is that we come into age embracing the violets and the blues the way it was intended and not like it is a crime to feel. Like Frances Ha, Barbie presents a careful deconstruction of the ageing girl’s being and her confrontation with the world.

Barbieland is a candy-coated utopia of fairy flossed skies and airtight figures run by feminist porcelain dolls. Crossing the borders of Barbieland, the reality of a mirrored world under the Venice Beach sun comes in the shape of strict patriarchy, ageing faces, catcalling at lunchtime, and Barbie being ruthlessly bullied by a 15-year-old girl.

In the real-world, Barbie experiences emotions unknown to stereotypical Barbies, like humiliation and loss of purpose. Feelings of anxiety and questions of death threaten the consistency of perfection in Barbie, and it presents symptoms of cellulite, flat feet, and unbalanced coordination as she gracefully falls off the roof of her dreamhouse. 

The unpredictable jaggedness is sort of what it feels like to explore womanhood as each age shows face. Coming into age cannot always be so polite. The uncertainty is daunting as it threatens our comfortability, and like Barbie, we try to shield ourselves from the inevitable. After returning to Barbieland from the real world, she says, “I was perfect before, and now I am ugly; I want everything to just go back to the way it was”. Barbie’s reaction to change takes the impression of the wonderfully real and perplexing girlhood.

After a 2-hour viewing session, I am sitting next to my friend at a Starbucks, sipping on pink drinks and we discuss the day the world ran out of pink for Barbie. We speak of disappointments at 24, mothers’ sacrifices, ambition, and admit to secretly hiding tears during Barbie’s ending sequence. I asked her if she heard Ruth say, “We mothers stand still so our daughters can look back to see how far they’ve come”. In the theatres, I was immediately nostalgic of Greta’s previous indie hit film Ladybird and its precious mother-daughter dialogue across the golden sunset of Sacramento.

Gerwig’s Barbie extends on think pieces of mild feminism through body image expectations and a career hierarchy that is somewhat relatable to the modern world experience. However, it is no free-thinking Susan Sontag or Joan Didion. As an adult, I found the feminism aspect to be quite repetitive. However, for many young girls around the world, Barbie may just be the perfect enjoyable introduction to the concept.

Barbie’s more memorable impression on me was the ending dialogue between Barbie and Ruth Marianna Handler, the creator of Barbie in real-life and in the movie. She says, “Humans only have one ending, but ideas live forever”. Ruth then continues to say as Barbie’s maker, she has no control over her life any more than her own daughter, and there is no requirement for permission to live life freely. If there is one thing Greta’s filmmaking suggests, it’s this: Life will forever offer itself to those who wish to accept it, in a way that transcends the fear of death and change to become part of the greater imagination. 

Barbie is a delicate rollercoaster, and through cinema, Greta creates a celluloid string that binds the girlhood experience to something familiar. Perhaps, ‘girlhood’ is just that – a by-product of perfectionism and dread where a girl must leap from one existential tenure to another to seek out the next greater idea.


Cinephile recommends 10 foreign flicks you need to watch at least once in your lifetime

Allow Sumaiya to takes you on a journey and embrace the new wave of foreign films...

Amongst the ever-evolving chaotic world that we now live in, the undying industry of cinema remains true to its art which is why it is a treasure I always hold on to as it allows me to explore the oh so interesting lives of others vicariously through the screens.

While some of us enjoy the comfortability of mainstream Hollywood, foreign film has become somewhat of an afterthought due to the unfamiliarity of the language, some may even say it is a chore to read the subtitles while watching. However, if you’re someone like me with a curious mind and an appreciation for cinema allow me to take you on a journey and embrace the new wave of foreign films. Continue reading with an open mind and an open heart.

Don’t forget the snacks!



France, (2007)

LE SCAPHANDRE ET LE PAPILLON poster- Canal+, Kennedy/Marshall Company, France 3 Cinéma (2007).

Director: Julian Schnabel

Rating: 5/5


In a few words, cinematically this movie is inspiring, magical, captivating, and of course humorous. The director Schnabel does a beautiful job in shedding light on the true story of Jean Dominique Bauby’s life, the editor of the French fashion magazine, Elle, who must come into terms with his new life after a tragic stroke. Due to his inability to speak, we navigate this new world through his internal dialogue, as Bauby retreats into his mind and explores his past and imagination. For those who have an eye for camera work, you will appreciate the wonderful montage of imagery of Bauby’s imagination and the subtle delicate shots of his trips to the beach.



France, (2001)

Amélie poster. Claudie Ossard Productions, Union Générale Cinématographique (UGC), France 3 Cinéma (2001).

Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Rating: 5/5

Amelie is the perfect introduction into the world of French films and will easily become a top pick for comfort films! The film transports you into the very fun and whimsical life of a young girl who works at a café and makes it her mission to make all the people she meets in her life reach their true destiny. The red and green vivid aesthetics of the film, along with the eye- capturing shots of Montmartre will seem like a warm and colourful hug from Amelie herself to you.


Come and See

The Soviet Union, (1985)

Come and See poster. Mosfilm, Belarusfilm (1985).

Director: Elem Klimov

Rating: 5/5

 If you’re a huge war film fan, then you’ll want to keep reading. Expect top tier on screen performance from actor Aleksei Yevgenyevich Kravchenko’s. The dark, gritty, and almost biblical imagery of this film takes you through a hyper surreal hell dream of never-ending madness and terror for a young Belorussian boy when he discovers his first riffle deep within the mud during the bloody battle between the Soviet Union against the German Nazi regime.


The City of Lost Children

Spain, France (1995)

The City of Lost Children poster- Studio Canal+,  Centre National de la Cinématographie , Eurimages, France 3 Cinéma , Televisión Española (1995).

Director: Marc Caro, Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Rating: 5/5


When it comes to brilliant filmmaker Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s there is no shortage of marvellous films to choose from. The storyline of this film is a unique dark fairy-tale about a sad and lonely scientist who kidnaps orphans to steals their dreams. Jeunet has a keen eye for absurdity and dark witty humour in his films, so viewers can look forward to reliving a crazy and scary-ish fever dream.


Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

India, (2011)

A scene from Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. Box Office Productions 2011.

Director: Zoya Akter

Rating: 5/5

 While not every film on this list may appeal to you, I would highly recommend watching the above to anyone. The title translates to “Life will never come to you twice” in Hindi, although at first glance it may sound banal, the film does not steer away from the simple yet important truth of every individual needing to live life for no one but themselves and to stay alive in every moment. It follows the life-changing journey of 3 childhood friends who travel to Spain for a bachelor’s party, during which they explore their true coming of age at nearly 30 years old. To top it off, some wholesome poetry is also incorporated into the film, one of which I find to be inspiring:

Nazar mein khwabon ki

Bijliyan leke chal rahe ho

Toh zinda ho tum

Hawa ke jhokon ke jaise

Aazad rehno sikho


This translated to: “As long as you carry the light of your dreams in your eyes, you are alive. 

Learn to live like the free waves of the wind.”



In The Mood For Love

Hong Kong, (2000)

In the Mood For Love poster- Paradis Film, Jet Tone Productions, Block 2 Pictures (2000).

Director: Wong Kar-Wai

Rating: 3.5/5

 This film feels like a personal love letter from Wong Kar-Wai himself. Compared to the seemingly edgy cinematography of his other popular films like Fallen AngelsIn the mood for love is surprisingly more melancholic, soft, sensual, and slow. The artistry and elegance of the characters’ performances, combined with their striking costumes are just the perfect combination. Not to mention the slow and hypnotic violin-based soundtrack played by Shigeru Umebayashi throughout the movie will transport you into the perfect melody of love.


Blue is the Warmest Colour

France, Belgium (2013)

Blue is the warmest colour poster- Wild Bunch, Quat’sous Films, France 2 Cinéma, Scope Pictures, Vértigo Films, Radio Télévision Belge Francofone, Eurimages, Pictanovo (2013).

Director: Abdellatif Kechiche
Ratings: 5/5

A very special and important LGBTQ film by Kechiche and is truly one of the rawest and authentic depictions of love and betrayal in film. The story of the teenage protagonist, Adèle’s, will stick with you as she will take you on a journey of growing up in France while trying to discover her sexuality and trying to live through heartbreak. The three-hour-long movie will have you experience an extreme amount of joy, excitement, loss, and hurt all at once.


La Haine

France, (1995)

A scene from La Haine. Box Office (1995).

 Director: Mathieu Kassovitz

Rating: 4.5/5

“La Haine attire la Haine!” translates to “hatred breeds hatred”. This iconic film takes us through the early tensions and riots of France in the ‘90s. With the plot being over the course of 24-hours, you’d be surprised by the film’s level of depth as you’re introduced to strong themes of political and socioeconomic issues on the outskirts of Paris banlieue. Rather than focussing on your typical upper-class luxurious stereotype of Paris, you’re met with the realities of police brutality within poor immigrant housings of Paris, a side that we don’t often see.



France, (2005)

C.R.A.Z.Y poster. Box Office (2005).

Director: Jean-Marc Vallée

Rating: 4.5/5

 An epic queer coming-of- age film with Zachary Beaulieu who not only navigates the struggle of figuring out his sexuality but also constantly tests his relationship with faith and religion. Although his family doesn’t make life any easier for him, Zachary remains true to his identity by expressing himself through bold colours, his sense of fashion, and music. Throughout the film there are references to David Bowie’s “Aladdin Sane” album cover in Zachary’s costume which also later helps him to come into terms with his identity.



France, (2008)

Persepolis poster. Celluloid Dreams ,CNC, France 3 Cinéma, The Kennedy/Marshall Company, Région Ile-de-France (2008).

Director: Marjane Satrapi ,Vincent Paronnaud

Rating: 3/5

While this movie riled a lot of controversies and is banned in Iran, you can’t help but appreciate the animation and black-and-white visuals. This tells the story of a young girl, Marjane who is sent her abroad due to her mischievous wits. During Marjane’s life abroad, we see her coming of age in a foreign setting while struggling to adjust and embrace her Iranian heritage. Through black and white comic figures, this movie discovers themes of war, politics, teenage rebellion, and conflicts of identity through the misadventures of Marjane in different countries. The story is open to many interpretations -, which is all the reason why one must watch it.



Korean, (2019)

Parasite poster. Supplied, Barunson E&A (2019).











Director: Bong Joon-ho

Rating: 5/5

One of the most fascinating films I have ever watched and is so brilliantly written, Bong Joon- Ho’s films are always so unique and will keep you emotionally invested the whole time. A very valuable film about class warfare that is cleverly portrayed between two innocent families. Not only is this a mystery thriller but you will also be surprised how Bong Joon-ho incorporates comedic relief and classical music elements to show an overarching theme of the catastrophe of socio-economic competition and modern-day capitalism.