Jay Taylor-Jones’s review published on Letterboxd:
I'm riding on a wave of 5/5s, somebody stop me!
Tomboy really is worthy of that rating. It's a really strange rating though, as there are elements that I want to criticise heavily, but know that my wanting to slam down on those elements is exactly what Sciamma wanted. Instead, I'll praise this film and rave about it for a little while!
As someone who is very comfortable with their gender identity and sexuality (something I feel incredibly lucky for), themes such as gender dysphoria and ideas of questioning one's sexual orientation are two things that I've never identified with. However, knowing friends who have experienced dysphoria and have questioned their sexuality has helped me to always be aware of the issues they face. That being said, I feel so many people, even around the ones they trust the most, hide a lot of the pain. Sometimes it's obvious, sometimes it's not. No matter what, it's going to be a difficult process and this film illustrates that in such a beautiful and delicate way.
I think when dealing with these topics in relation to a child, things are going to have to be done in an even more delicate manner. Sciamma manages to convey so much of Laure/Mickaël's feelings through the incredible direction. Other than the poignant story and the wonderful performances (which I'll get onto), the direction was the thing that stood out to me the most. I adored the amount of shots that were at eye level with the kids. The film just emanates innocence; the use of natural light, the amount of close-ups and the very naturalistic direction of the child actors. The camera felt like a window from another child, especially during the scenes in which Laure was presenting as Mickaël. The camera never shows the inner thoughts of Mickaël/Laure, it simply shows what others would see them going through.
It was because of that that the film develops several different ways of interpretation; something you probably know instantly gives a film more marks from me. There's so much left unsaid in the film because of how much us conveyed during periods of silence. The heartbreaking mirror scenes, the hair cutting, the clay moulding, the dress in the woods: all of these things say so much and do so much yet only offer little bits to fill in. Personally, I interpreted the film to be about someone coming to terms with the fact that they are transgender, although this does make the ending rather sad (though I'm going to assume that was more to show Laure/Mickaël's honesty and openess growing). I know that others interpret the film to be about someone prentending to be something they're not in order to find a place in a society of children, also a valid interpretation that I really can see.
I think this ambiguity is completed by the indescribable performance from Zoé Héran. It's unbelievable. Every emotion just appears so realistically and the pain that Laure/Mickaël goes through is so skillfully portrayed. Every moment Héran was on screen, I felt deeply moved by the sorrow that her character was so obviously feeling. Also, praise to Malonn Lévana, whose role, though small compared to Héran's, brought so much to the film. My favourite parts of the film were easily the scenes in which Laure and Jeanne talked about Laure's identity. Children are just so accepting of things that adults have so much trouble coming to terms with and seeing the two children escape the world of gender labels, expectations and stigmas was so amazingly captured and translated.
To all the cast and all of the (apparently very small) crew, well done. This is what I call a memorable film. If I were to publish one of those '[big number] films to see before you die' books, this would certainly be near the top.