When The Diary of A Teenage Girl received an 18 rating from the BBFC, Bel Powley – the film’s lead – encouraged teens to fake their ID to go and see it anyway. In the 2015 remake of Phoebe Gloeckner’s graphic novel, the London-born actor plays Minnie Goetze, a 15-year-old who loses her virginity to her mother’s boyfriend in 1970s San Francisco. What ensues is a complex tale about a girl, her body and its relationship to society at large. It’s one of the first films of its kind to explore female sexuality through a sensitive and realistic lens, pushing an under-discussed subject to the fore.
Denying a demographic the right to watch films about its own experiences leaves only a narrow range of depictions of female sexuality available to teenage girls, according to Powley, and those stereotypes need to be challenged. “Female sexuality is still so taboo,” she told Dazed last year, “so I think it’s really important and amazing that we’re showing a young girl who is sexually active.”
With a string of rave reviews on her trail, Powley is looking to follow up her major film feature with a role that’s just as considered and complicated. In fact, she won’t settle for anything less: “I want to continue to play well-rounded, three-dimensional female roles, and they don’t come around often. It doesn’t have to be a strong woman, it doesn’t have to be a woman who wins at the end, it just has to be a fleshed-out part.”
This year, Powley will feature in films that look set to fill those very criteria, starring alongside Elle Fanning in A Storm in the Stars, a period piece centered on the love affair between Frankenstein author Mary Wollstonecraft and poet Percy Shelley, as well as hyped indie drama Detour alongside fellow Dazed 100 name Tye Sheridan.
Text Monique Todd