Kim, Bella, and Momo (Tuva Jagell, Vilgot Ostwald Vesterlund, Louise Nyvall) are three teenage friends in a small Swedish town. They are constantly bullied and intimidated at school, with their teachers and parents providing little respite. Their aren’t so much angsty as they are full-on miserable, and for them, “it gets better” seems like a hollow promise. One day Bella – who is something of a botanist – is opening a box of seeds when she comes across one she did not request. The girls plant it, and a curious specimen blooms.

One night, they decide to sample the sweet-smelling sap the plant continually trickles, and a surprise awaits them: within minutes, they are transformed into boys. Exploring their masculine side quickly appeals to all three girls to various degrees. They soon learn how it helps their situation, and how it can also make matters worse. Soon Kim is seemingly obsessed – putting their friendship in peril, and her very identity in-flux.

Brought to life by Swedish author and director Alexandra-Therese Keining, GIRLS LOST has both a timeless fairy tale quality to it, and the immediacy of current events. The girls have a genuine kinship, one that underlines the vast difference between the way girls relate to one-another and boys do. What’s interesting is to see the way those bonds are tested when the magic of the plant is brought into play. Were they everything to one-another because they had a personal connection, or were they everything just because they were all in the same mess together?

What’s more, the film goes to great lengths to explore the notion of gender identity and what it really means. We begin with Kim explaining that she feels like an imposter in her own body, but what happens when she gets “the right body”? Is that the end of the story? Does one just begin living as the opposite sex body-and-soul, or is there much more to it that needs to be understood.

The point of the film is that none of the questions surrounding gender identity have an easy answer, and that everything from demeanour to attraction comes from a place deep within that is fragile and easily affected. This is a film that is masculine in a very feminine way, and that’s a rare thing to see on-screen. It is interested in finding the harmony between the two, both in the girls and likewise in the boys. It is rife with imagery and visual metaphor dealing with duality and transformation which all compliments its core conceit beautifully.

There is a lot of love on the screen in this modern fairy tale, and all of it is love in its purest form. It seldom is physically manifested in much more than a kiss, but it reminds us that even a touch can have great meaning and tenderness at an age where even a touch is so heart-poundingly scary.

GIRLS LOST does have a flaw or two in its execution, but at the end of the day they do not matter. What matters is that this story exists and will be within reach of teenagers like the ones it depicts trying to understand who they are, who they’re supposed to be…and most importantly, what will happen then.