Adapted from a graphic novel by Phoebe Gloeckner, “Diary” centers on a teenage girl (Bel Powley) who becomes obsessed with sex after losing her virginity to her mother’s boyfriend (Alexander Skarsgard). A breakout hit at Sundance, the film has likely struck a chord with critics and audiences for its refreshing (and true-to-life) ideas about sex from, well, a teenage girl’s perspective.
“Diary” received an 18 rating from the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), which means that no one under the age of majority would be allowed into theaters to see the movie, even if accompanied by an adult. (The film received a R rating here.) Hence, the BBFC has declared that this story of a teenage girl’s coming of age is too risqué for teenage girls to watch.
Vertigo Releasing, “Diary’s” UK distributor, commented, “We are massively disappointed with this final ruling [after an unsuccessful appeal to the ratings board]. The film
explores female sexuality with boldness and honesty in an
un-exploitative manner. In an age where young women are still continually being sexualized and objectified, we feel ‘The Diary of a Teenage Girl‘ sends a very positive, reassuring message to young girls about female sexuality and body image.”
Added writer-director Marielle Heller, “The media has endlessly told teenage girls that boys are the only
ones who are going to want sex. Girls are going to be the ones that
don’t want it. Nobody tells a girl what it’s like if you want to have
sex. … If you’re a teenage girl that wants to have sex,
there’s still this thing of feeling like a freak because everything
you’ve ever read or seen tells you — you shouldn’t want it.”
She also noted the many, many movies that “tell boys that whatever they feel sexually is normal.”
The BBFC based its 18 rating on the film’s “strong sex scenes,
including mechanical thrusting, breast and buttock nudity, and implied
oral sex,” as well as “a brief sight of a pencil drawing
of a young woman with a penis in her mouth.” A nude scene occurs outside of a sexual context, when 15-year-old Minnie (Powley) looks at herself in the mirror.
Another cited reason for the 18 rating was a sexual encounter between a minor and an adult. The “Diary” team noted, however, that the similar themed “Fish Tank” and “The
Reader” received the more permissive 15 rating from the same ratings
“I’m not surprised we got an
R rating here,” said Heller of the MPAA’s decision for US audiences. “We
worked very closely with the MPAA in order to get that rating. I was
pleased with that rating.” But, she noted, “The ‘18’ was much more of a shock,” she said. “We were sure we were going to get a ‘15.’ Maybe we were naïve.”
“Everything I had heard was that Europe would be more tolerant of sexual
content and less tolerant of violence [in their rating decisions],” she said. “I never in a million years expected the rating in the
US to better reflect what I think the movie we made was. I expected
Europe to be more on board.”
“The Diary of a Teenage Girl” opens on August 7 in the UK and the US.