The Evening Dress Pitch-perfect in its Portrayal of Budding Sexuality

Anchored by a revelatory performance by Alba Gaia Bellugi, “The Evening Dress” is a keen portrayal of a girl caught uncomfortably in that nervous, confusing, seemingly perilous crawlspace between girlhood and womanhood. Transfixed by the sexual allure of her forthright, impeccably dressed teacher, Mrs. Solenska (Portuguese-born singer Lio), young Juliette begins wearing makeup and pumps at home so as to express the femininity she’d rather reject. She steals a replacement copy of a book Solenska gives her because the original contains mysteries she wants to own for herself: a strand of the older woman’s hair trapped between two pages, and a red, brownish smudge that alludes to all sorts of dirty things.

The screenplay, by director Myriam Aziza and Sophie Bredier, shrewdly charts how Solenska’s sensuality÷her willingness to flaunt it in front of her students, and to cleverly, sometimes to their delight, turn their inappropriate comments about her foxiness against them÷plants the seed of Juliette’s emotional distress, which leads the girl to invent a fantastic narrative, informed by her insecurity and jealousy, in which the object of her confused affection carries on an affair with a classmate, Antoine (L