If Fight Club and The Outsiders conceived a German daughter together, its adolescence would likely resemble Tiger Girl — a darkly comic thriller that finds two teenage girls entering into adulthood in vastly different ways. Vanilla (Maria-Victoria Dragus) is a shy girl working her way through security training with dreams of one day become a law enforcement officer. When she meets Tiger (Ella Rumpf), a Bohemian troublemaker, Vanilla’s confidence begins to rise at a dangerous pace — and it isn’t long before Tiger finds herself becoming the voice of reason.
Directed by Jakob Lass, Tiger Girl is a taut analysis of the chaotic nature of growing up and the thrilling nature of rebellion. At first glance, Vanilla lives up to her name. Aside from the obvious fact that she has white skin, the girl also seems to operate solely within the rules in every aspect of her life. Once she sees how much fun Tiger has whilst doing whatever the hell she desires, Vanilla becomes enamored with rebelling against everything — for the sheer sake of rebellion.
Dragus is perfectly cast here because she looks so familiar and harmless. There’s nothing even remotely threatening about her appearance, yet she slowly becomes more and more frightening as Tiger Girl progresses. As Vanilla’s desires grow stronger, there’s a subtle difference in the way Dragus carries herself, and these kinds of moments elevate the film to another level.
Fresh off of her star-making performance in Raw, Rumpf is absolutely incredible as the titular character. Equally charming and badass, we’re first introduced to Tiger after she physically attacks a group of thugs who are harassing Vanilla at a train station. It takes all of two minutes to learn exactly who this character is, but Lass never pigeonholes her; allowing her to grow right up until the end credits begin to roll.
There are plenty of times when it seems as though the film is preparing for a wild, brain-melting twist, but that never comes. Instead, Tiger Girl remains firmly grounded for the entirety of its running time. Lass provides a number of stylish, borderline fake-outs in that regard, but they’re more enjoyable than disappointing. This is one of the weirdest coming-of-age movies of the past few years, and if you’re a fan of those kinds of stories, you will not want to miss Tiger Girl.
Tiger Girl recently screened at the 2017 Fantasia International Film Festival.