Cinema loves a coming-of-age story. There’s been so many over the years in so many genres, such as The Breakfast Club, Dead Poets Society, and more recently the Academy Award winning Moonlight. The Sales Girl is another coming of age story of Mongolian origin, and puts an interesting spin on the age subgenre.
Bayarjargal Bayartsetseg stars as beautiful young nuclear engineering student Saruul, who takes up a retail job to help out her fellow student when she suffers an injury. Turns out, the job is in a sex shop, which comes a bit of a shock to Saruul, who is rather sheltered and raised in a conservative household. Surrounded by blow up dolls, dildos, Viagra, and ‘vagina tighteners’ she is thrust into a strange world and starts to open up, all with the help of the mysterious store owner Katya.
Katya is an intriguing woman. She is outspoken, funny, and outwardly sexual but also has a questionable and mysterious past. The pair soon develop a sweet friendship over the following weeks as Saruul learns more about her, and Katya pushes her to break out of her shell and become a confident young woman, leading to her sexual awakening.
The film is structured really interestingly, broken into sections about different characters as we meet them over a period of months and how their lives intertwine to form Saruul’s coming of age story. It was really amazing to see Saruul’s transformation throughout the film. She starts as an extremely shy girl with a passion for art, and a bit of a loner. With the help and guidance of Katya, Saruul changes her appearance, looks more confidence, and gains greater life experiences thanks to her job at the sex shop.
The portrayal of Saruul by Bayarjargal Bayartsetseg is outstanding! She is raw, emotional, and extremely talented. It was honestly like watching a flower bloom in front of your eyes on the big screen. It felt so authentic and real. She worked incredibly well with Enkhtuul Oidovjamts who stars as Katya. The pair have an interesting bond and this carries throughout the film.
Another aspect of The Sales Girl is its soundtrack, created by Dulguun Bayasgalan along with his band Magnolian. The bright and rocking indie soundtrack perfectly complemented the overarching story of the film, with Dulguun appearing in the film during break out moments when Saruul puts on her headphones and sinks into her own world. This soundtrack gave the film a good energy and flow and kept me invested in the story.
Overall, director Janchivdorj Sengedorj has created a masterpiece of Mongolian film with The Sales Girl. It is an emotional journey through the modern world, perfectly and beautifully captured for years to come. If you are a fan of foreign cinema, I highly recommend you do yourself a favour and see this film.
The Sales Girl was screened at the Adelaide Film Festival.
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