My Year of Dicks is unabashed in its use of cliche that it creates something wholly original, a film brimming with sincere love for its form. It is a rare diamond in a trough of pessimism that you cannot help but hold dearly in your heart.
It is almost a cliche to say there isn’t a time as messy or awkward as being a teen girl. It has inspired many a movie, thinkpiece and meme to an extreme that can make it exhausting to witness. Yet, when you watch something embedded in this cliche and it still leaves you with a big grin, you know you have witnessed something special,
My Year of Dicks (2022), directed by Sara Gunnarsdóttir, is exactly that special film. It is an Oscar-nominated animated short that acts as a video diary of a 15-year-old girl, Pam, as she tries to lose her virginity. The stages of her life are split into five chapters, each serving as a genre representing Pam’s state of mind. There is a Georgian period piece, a vampire folk tale, an anime episode and a horror film. Each boy, a specific figure she wants to use to lose her virginity, fits different archetypes familiar in teen films. There's the skater, film bro, a closeted boyfriend, a pretentious asshole who turns out to be a bigot and the sweet, unassuming male best friend. None of these characters are unique–as mentioned, they are archetypes–but Pam’s relationship with them is dealt with in such a raw way that it is intimate to watch.
The sincerity in My Year of Dicks is distinctive because of how shameless it is. It never tries to undermine itself by poking fun or bragging about its self-awareness, which can plague other coming-of-age comedies and popular short films. Maybe it is because so much of the writer, Pamela Ribbon, is in this film, including letters and family members.
It is in this sincerity and selfhood that relatability is found. A stand-out scene plays with the animated form so expertly and sincerely. After Pam asks her mum when she had sex, she is sent to her Dad to hear a sex talk. As expected, it is excruciating in its secondhand embarrassment. But the film takes this a step further. As the film starts, her nose bleeds and blood pours out of her mouth and nails, exiting her pores. She then vomits and in the mess are the faces of different men who have represented key moments of sexuality. She then rips her ears off and throws them across the wall; all the while, her dad is still speaking and Pam still has to listen to it all.
The dreaded sex talk is commonplace in teen films. But My Year of Dicks has such respect for its characters and form that it presents these experiences in such a faithful way to human experiences. Using animation for this story is to the film's benefit: teen sexuality is such an in-your-head, isolating experience that the only way to display it is to step outside the confines of your reality. It is thinking your life is a horror movie. It is thinking that living life with your first boyfriend is like an anime. It is thinking that your insides melt out of your pores when you hear your parents go into detail about masturbation and orgasms.
My Year of Dicks is so unabashed in its use of cliche that it creates something wholly original, a film brimming with sincere love for its form. It is a rare diamond in a trough of pessimism that you cannot help but hold dearly in your heart.
You can catch My Year of Dicks and other Oscar-nominated shorts in cinemas this weekend! Locations and session details at: https://shorts.tv/en/events/oscar-shorts-202.