Written by: Robin C. Farrell | June 10th, 2021
Skater Girl (Manjari Makijany, 2021) 2½ out of 4 stars.
At the start, we’re introduced to Prerna (Rachel Saanchita Gupta), a teenage girl with a palpable desire to belong somewhere. She carries an unspoken longing to attend school like her younger brother, Ankush (Shafin Patel), while balancing her family obligations. As the title suggests, however, Prerna eventually discovers a new enthusiasm for skateboarding. It takes a bit longer to get there than one might expect, based on the title and the marketing, but the transition is earned.
This all comes about, however, because of Jessica (Amy Maghera, Time to Dance), a half-Indian woman who travels to Prerna’s small town for personal reasons and quickly becomes entwined in helping and ultimately championing the growing skater community. The film pivots away entirely from Prerna and from the tone that has been established up to that point. The minimal dialogue and visual storytelling are swapped out for long exchanges of exposition and many of them in English, rather than Hindi. The film continues by messily flip-flopping between Jessica and Prerna, rather than carefully threading their stories together. They come across like two different versions of the same film; perhaps even two different films altogether. One wonders if there were a lot of conflicting creative viewpoints or numerous drafts of the script.
The biggest detriment to the film, though, has got to be the very abrupt ending and its lack of resolution. Too many daunting threads are left dangling, leaving viewers to draw their own conclusions about what happens to Prerna, and what few conflicts are solved are done far too quickly. It’s a shame, too, because it is easy to see how great this movie could have been.
Despite this messy pacing, the skating sequences are highly compelling. There is a welcome emphasis on the importance of protective gear, and the themes of wanting to belong and to understand oneself sustain all the way through. Gupta absolutely shines in her performances on and off the skateboard. Patel is a tremendous delight, too, with whimsical counterpoints to many serious moments. On the whole, Skater Girl is quite enjoyable and worth watching, for the charming kids, the quiet moments between Prerna and Ankush, and even some of Jessica’s most inward moments. Just prepare yourself for a bumpy ride.