One striking scene features Anishoara's subdued but quietly passionate reaction to watching a stranger arrive on a bicycle, sit beside a bus, and carve and eat fresh watermelon. She observes him from no more than ten feet away while he pays little mind to her and continues about his business. Her piercing green eyes stay transfixed on him, even when he hops back on his bicycle and rides off into the sunset. They don't exchange words, we hear no romantic musical cue and Anishoara's expression remains neutral, but it was clear that this moment was one of her first experiences of real attraction. After he leaves, Anishoara looks at her reflection in the bus' broken rearview mirror and notices that her face was covered in dirt, something she probably would not have given much thought to otherwise. She quickly scrubs it away and frees her hair from the pigtails they'd been in. Insofar as pigtails are the ultimate aesthetic symbol of girlhood, choosing to take them out represents a symbolic rite of passage.
Not long after, a mysterious German tourist passes through town. Unlike the previous boy, this stranger exhibits predatory behavior toward Anishoara and the small town's other young girls. Before leaving, he gives Anishoara a flower crown attached to a veil, and stands behind her as she looks at her reflection— "You are wonderful. Beautiful." Up until that point, Anishoara seemed flattered by the gift but when she sees her reflection her smile fades: wearing suspiciously bridal headwear while being touched by a man twice her age. As the German leans in to kiss her, she immediately takes off.
The mirroring of these two early "romantic experiences" suggest a subtle maturity within the character, otherwise unseen to the eye. Both instances end with Anishoara looking at her own reflection— in the first, her feeling of attraction toward someone else compels her to view herself as an object of desire for the first time. In the second instance, Anishoara is an object of desire without her consent. Sexually maturing as a young woman involves both feelings of empowerment and vulnerability, a transition beautifully illustrated by the juxtaposition between these two moments, especially seeing as Anishoara's grandfather was sitting barely ten steps away during her encounter with the German man.
Anishoara's progression from girl to young adult culminates in a scene that takes place toward the end of the film— her grandfather and his buddies drink late into the night while she sits alone in the dark, under a blanket after refusing their invitation to join. One drunk man enters the house, spots her in the corner, and stands over her. From learned experiences with predatory drunken behavior, Anishoara immediately braces herself and backs away. Though this man does nothing and leaves, another drunk individual laughs maniacally at her through a window, her face obscured by complete darkness. It's one of the more frightening scenes without anything in particular happening— rather, what we learn is the sad reality that within such a short period of time Anishoara has learned to protect herself.
Despite being delicate and beautifully shot, Anishoara subtle indicates feelings of suffocation, monotony and oppression through the eyes of a girl learning about her place in the world. Small town life is experienced through the lens of someone who feels both contention and nostalgia— the simple pleasures of childhood are presented alongside the harsh realities of growing up in an impoverished bubble. Ana-Felicia Scutelnicu's feature film debut is truly elegant, stunning to look at, and quietly heartbreaking.