‘Diary of a Teenage Girl’ Star Bel Powley Speaks Against the Film’s Prohibitive Ratings

Critics have pretty unanimously lauded Marielle Heller’s Diary of a Teenage Girl for its (sadly somewhat unprecedentedly) candid and unsensational portrait of an adolescent girl’s sexual awakening, with Flavorwire’s Jason Bailey noting that “much of that falls to [star Bel] Powley…[who] in a sideways glance, a loaded smile, a screwy line reading…effortlessly captures the emotional hunger, self-loathing, and power (sometimes all at once) so tied up in adolescent sexuality.” But the ratings the film has received both in the States (where the MPAA gave it an “R”) and in England (where the star is from, and where the BBFC gave it an “18”), are precluding teens who might benefit from its depiction of the subject from seeing it. 23-year-old Powley spoke with Indiewire about the importance of the film, and against the disheartening and telling irony of the ratings it received:

I just feel like the people who watched the movie and made that rating were shortsighted and took the wrong message and got the wrong idea from the film. It’s a very good example of what we’re trying to say: Society is very afraid of teenage girls and afraid of sexuality amongst teenage girls. People don’t talk about it because they’re scared of it.

Powley, who plays a 15-year-old who has an affair with her mother’s boyfriend (Alexander Skarsgard), says the “R” was expected in America, but she’d initially thought, in predicting what rating it’d receive in England, “Oh, my God, definitely a 15. We’re really liberal. We wouldn’t rate this an 18.’ And then it happened!”

She therefore discussed why she hopes “young girls can sneak into the movie or get it on DVD when it comes”:

I think that body image in the media is so negative for young women at the moment. It can be so damaging to people. It takes young women a long time to learn to love themselves.

Of the film’s subversion of that media tendency, she said:

This may sound like a complete cliche, but I’m honestly so proud of it. I mean specifically about, let’s just say it, the nudity and the nakedness.