A teen artist living in 1970s San Francisco enters into an affair with her mother’s boyfriend. —IMDB

The IMDB description mentions a teen artist who has the affair with her mother’s boyfriend. What it doesn’t tell you, is that the girl is only 15 years old — which means she is below the legal age of consent in America — and the boyfriend is 35. I am Australian and 15 years old is also below the age of consent for consensual sex. This made THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL very difficult to watch as it explores themes that are not usually explicitly dealt with in mainstream movies. It’s a morally complex coming of age story where Minnie (played by Bel Powley) struggles to deal with her emerging sexuality. The relationship with the older man adds profound complexities to Minnie’s journey through adolescence — a story which will, I assume, resonate with many women. This is why this film is so important.  It makes it clear that, as adults, we are the product of very complex experiences – the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Phoebe Gloeckner which combined prose, poetry and cartoons to tell the story. The movie also includes cartoon animation representing the imagination of Minnie. It works very well. The director is Marielle Heller who also brought us A Walk Among the Tombstones. Only a woman could have directed THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL given the sensitive material. She directs the story without any judgment — and it is incredibly courageous and refreshingly honest. Like Minnie, we are all desperate for love and often will do whatever we can to experience it.

While the story is pretty serious, like so much of life’s pain, it is shot through with fresh wit and humour. Bel Powley is brilliant in the character of Minnie (Bel is actually 25 in real life, but you wouldn’t guess that during the film – I had to look it up afterwards). Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids) is also excellent as Minnie’s mother.

THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL can hardly be called a pleasure to watch. But it is an important movie telling a story that we need to listen to. I recommend this movie, but only if you are open to feeling uncomfortable, challenged and provoked to think about issues you may never have considered before.