Dir: John Hazlett. Can. 2005. 92mins

The thrust of These Girls sounds like a dirty joke andwhile the situation explored is provocative, it's a real testament to itsfilm-makers and cast that the comedy transcends the snickering and emerges as abright, lively and intelligent entertainment. With its brash mixture of humorand frankness the film provides a humanistic context to teenage sex much in theway that Louis Malle created an almost palatablescenario for incest in Murmur Of TheHeart.

It nonetheless facesan uphill commercial battle in overcoming skittishness toward the subjectmatter, extremely modest production values and a relatively unknown cast. Festival exposure is likely its best theatricalconduit for specialised engagements in sophisticatedmarkets in Europe and Asia, where its prospects for modest success are betterthan average.

Told from thevantage point of Keira (Caroline Dhavernas),the story unfolds as a memory of a fateful last summer among friends at aslumbering beach community. Her pals, the beauty-obsessed Glory (Amanda Walsh)and the tomboyish Lisa (Holly Lewis) are at that critical point in life wherethe future looms and the prospects appear remote or pre-ordained.

Regardless, thetrio has too much time to ponder what appear to be limited options and areadditionally distracted by raging hormones and the relative absence ofsubstantive mates. In fact, their closest male bond is asexual and learningimpaired.

The fatefulturning point in the young women's lives occurs when Keiralearns that local entrepreneur Keith Clark (David Boreanaz)has a covert marijuana patch and enlists Lisa to make a raid on theinfestation. In the process of accomplishing the prank they discover thatGlory's babysitting duty for the Clarks has a side benefit. She's carrying on an affair withKeith.

Employing a slycombination of guile and blackmail, Keira confrontsthe New Age businessman with a proposition. He will see to their sexual needsand they will keep their silence.

Objectively it'san unholy pact. However, director and co-writer John Hazlettdeftly avoids condemning or condoning the situation. Boreanaz'simprisonment is rather poignant as he sees himself as essentially a good fatherand husband with a fragile libido. The teenagers do not have dark, ulteriormotives; and at times seem to address the situation as a class science project.

The flesh isunquestionable weak but the personalities are disarmingly winning andforthright and, despite a degree of convenience in the plotting, the yarnevolves in surprising and satisfying fashion rather than in the tawdry andleering fashion of American Pie andits ilk.

Production Jeux d'ombres

Grana Productions

Seville Pictures

Anne-Marie Gelinas
Sam Grana
John Hamilton

Anne-Marie Gelinas
Sam Grana
John Hazlett
Andrew Noble

Hazlett, from the play by Vivienne Laxdal

Alex Vendler

Benjamin Duffield

Production design
Paryse Normandeau

Ned Bouhalassa
Peter Hay

Main cast
Caroline Dhavernas
Amanda Walsh
Holly Lewis
David Boreanaz