Cuties (2020)

Like most of us, I became aware of Cuties (French: Mignonnes) because of Netflix’s infamous promotion that made it look like some sort of paedophilia film. I was utterly disgusted and almost on the point of cancelling my subscription but then Film Twitter exploded, saying the poster and plot did not represent the film one bit. Netflix soon apologised, changed poster and plot, and I, having read positive reviews, decided to give the film a chance. And you should too, despite the backlash it’s still getting on Twitter, Maïmouna Doucouré’s debut feature is a great coming-of-age that makes social commentary against the sexualisation and exploitation of young children. 

The daughter of two Senegalese immigrants, Amy (Fathia Youssouf) is an 11-year-old who lives in a Parisian apartment with her conservative mother (Maïmouna Gueye), her old strict auntie (Mbissine Thérèse Diop), and her two younger siblings, and is waiting for her father to come back from Senegal. 

She soon discovers that her father is coming back but with a second, younger wife, a piece of news that she doesn't take particularly well — nor does her mother. And it doesn't help either than her auntie decides to use the upcoming Senegalese wedding to train Amy into becoming a traditional Senegalese woman. 

It's around this time that she first notices Angelica (Médina El Aidi-Azouni), another 11-year-old daughter of immigrants who lives in the same building as hers, and she is immediately captivated by the suggestive way she dresses and dances. On her first day at her new school, she learns that Angelica is the leader of the Mignonnes — or Cuties —, a quartet of popular girls who have their own dance group and are practising moves for an upcoming dance competition. The Mignonnes are instantly more appealing to Amy than the conservative and religious life planned for her by her family, and, as soon as there's an opening, she's more than happy to step in.

Unlike what the internet trolls want you to believe, there's nothing salacious about the story Doucouré decided to bring on the screen nor the way the director decided to tell it. Cuties tells the awkward and painful journey of a young girl trying to find her place in the world, a journey similar to that of many young girls nowadays throughout the globe. It is a story about young girls being constantly pressured, both by social media and society, to dress and act a certain way, and be overtly sexual. It beautifully portrays the struggles of a young Muslim girl caught between the strict traditions of her culture and a modern society with no tradition nor integrity whatsoever, who, in the end, is able to reject both and chose her own path. 

Yes, some scenes are perhaps more explicit than they needed to be — the young girls twerking and touching themselves were very uncomfortable to watch as was the security guard maliciously looking at the girls —, but we have to keep in mind that this kind of behaviour is becoming increasingly common in today's society, and that this is what the director wants to comment and criticize with the film, young people, especially girls, who feel the need to copy what they see on social media in order to fit in. 

Doucouré does a very good job at bringing out the humour in the film's lightest moments while keeping a serious tone throughout the film. She is also always in charge of her actors and gets great performances from her cast, especially from the leading child actor. Fathia Youssouf is a genuine revelation as she gives a believable, sympathetic and heartfelt performance in the role of Amy as she delivers the character's struggles with her every single gesture and glance.

Ultimately, while it has its issues, Cuties is a thoughtful and heartfelt coming-of-age, as well as one of those films you have to see before judging. 


  1. I've lost respect for so many content creators for just jumping on the "OMG PEDO" train over this. I do think it fails at drawing the line clearly between exploitation and depiction - they did not need to use close ups to get their point across, but over all the story had a lot of heart. I wish it focused more on Amy and her mother dealing with her dad taking on a second wife. That was the most interesting part for me.

    1. Same. There's nothing that annoys me as much as people judging a film before even watching it, just because of dumb promotion. I was scrolling through some reviews and I was appalled to see 1-star reviews from people who didn't even watch the film. It's just not fair to the people involved in the film. As for the film, it does cross the line a bit and yes, it should have focused on Amy's family a bit more, but overall it's a solid film.

  2. I saw the trailer for this film before I saw that horrendous poster from Netflix as I thought it looked like something unique and heartwarming. These goddamn conservatives often have to make an issue out of anything without knowing what the film is about. Yet, liberals aren't that much different either which is why I'm so done with both factions. I just want to enjoy myself and if I do see this film. I'll be the judge of what I think of it. If it's good, cool. If not, oh well.

    1. You couldn't be any more right! And it's "funny" how people are being so shitty at the filmmaker, a black woman, when they paid money and praised a movie (Bohemian Rhapsody) made by a while pedophile.