#LFF 2023: ESSEX GIRLS (Short) Film Review

Busayo Ige in ESSEX GIRLS (2023)

ESSEX GIRLS is a short but impactful film about identity, race and the power of female friendships.

4 out of 5 stars

When you look up the term “Essex Girl” on Google, you’ll come across a stereotype: a loud, materialistic white woman, typically with blonde hair and a fake tan. It’s a stereotype we all know, but it doesn’t fit Bisola.

Growing up in Benfleet, Essex as a British-Nigerian girl hasn’t been easy for Bisola. She doesn’t look like anyone else, she struggles with local dating and faces daily microaggressions. She’s tried her best to fit in, but even her two closest friends, Charlie and Saffron, who adore her, seem to understand her less with each passing day.

Corinna Brown and Busayo Ige in ESSEX GIRLS (2023)

But everything changes after a high school incident brings her into the orbit of Ashlee, the only other Black girl in her year. Ashlee embodies everything Bisola wishes she could be, and their newfound friendship propels Bisola on a journey of self-discovery. Can Ashlee unlock the sisterhood Bisola craves, or will she push her best friends away?

ESSEX GIRLS is a coming-of-age comedy-drama that flips the “Essex Girl” stereotype on its head. It explores the ups and downs of teenage life, from navigating friendships and social awkwardness to tackling the complexities of race, culture, and school life—all with humour and warmth.

Writer Busayo Ige takes on the lead role of Bisola, the teenager who feels like she doesn’t belong anywhere. Maisie Smith and Adrianna Bertola deliver strong performances as Saffron and Charlie, Bisola’s two white best friends, while Corinna Brown delivers a strong performance as Ashlee.

Rebecca Dike, Corinna Brown and Busayo Ige in ESSEX GIRLS (2023)

Director Yero Timi-Biu wraps the story in a warm, funny, and nostalgic package. From BlackBerry phones and iPod Nanos to hair gel, Jane Norman bags, and WKDs, it’s a light-hearted, nostalgic tribute to the late noughties that celebrates Black culture in the Y2K era and captures the essence of that time.

The cinematography by Nathalie Pitters, with its poppy colour grading, evokes the style of “SELAH AND THE SPADES” and “INSECURE,” casting warm light on the radiant young Black women living lives filled with daring and carefree decisions.

The result is a short but impactful film about embracing identity, breaking free from inhibitions, and cherishing the power of magical female friendships. Most importantly, it explores the journey to discover one’s identity before the challenges of adulthood take hold.

ESSEX GIRLS screens at the BFI London Film Festival on 14 October 2023