Coming-of-age comedy benefits from confident pint-size perfs from its tweenie cast in tale of girl scientist Selma (Julia Krohn) who forces her friends to forswear boys just when they start to get interesting. Awkward-age-pitched pic will find farming similar markets abroad tough, even though it drank in healthy B.O. in its autumn 2004 Norway release.

Coming-of-age comedy “The Color of Milk” benefits from confident pint-size perfs from its tweenie cast in tale of girl scientist Selma (Julia Krohn) who forces her friends to forswear boys just when they start to get interesting. Adapted from helmer Torun Lian’s own novel (as was her last, “Only Clouds Move the Stars,”) pic offers a wholesome but unsentimental depiction of sophisticated pubescents who seem to know a bit more about sex than their European counterparts. Consequently, awkward-age-pitched pic will find farming similar markets abroad tough, even though it drank in healthy B.O. in its autumn 2004 Norway release.

Bright 12-year-old tomboy Selma has it in for the whole sex-love-romance shebang given that none of it seems to have made any of the grownups around her very happy. That includes her remarried dad Gaston (Reidar Sorensen) and especially Selma’s aunt Nora (Ane Dahl Torp), who rows constantly with her b.f. Rikard (Kim Sorensen).

Vowing to find a way for women to breed without need for men when she grows up, Selma forces her cohorts Elin (Maria Elisabeth A. Hansen) and Ingun (Marie Kinge) to give up talking and playing with guys entirely. Elin not only cracks first, but does so by locking lips with Andy (Bernhard Naglestad), the cutest boy in the class, who has always had a soft spot for Selma. To punish her friends for their betrayal, Selma vows somewhat bafflingly to only hang with boys henceforth, but resists Andy’s offer to take their relationship a stage further.

Part of the pic’s amusement is hearing Selma’s dry, intellectually precocious musings on life and love delivered in voiceover counterpoint to the action, making the pic feel occasionally like a G-rated, Nordic version of “Sex and the City” for the training-bra set.

Helmer Lian has built a career on child-centered films and books, and shows particular skill with young thesps. Her screenwriting shines more here than her easygoing direction. Script could easily be remade for an English-speaking audience.

Although Lian seems to have directed Krohn to cross her arms and frown a bit too often to denote crossness, the rangy newcomer carries off the central role with impressive confidence. The rest of the young cast is likewise effortlessly naturalistic, although the adults flounder slightly in sketchier roles.

Standout element from the generally solid tech package is John Christian Rosenlund’s widescreen lensing, which shows off Norway’s stunning seaside landscape, bathed in a seemingly perpetual late-summer magic hour.

The Color of Milk

Norway - Sweden

Production

A Painswick Films (Norway), AB Svensk Filmindustri (Sweden) production, in association with Norsk Film Fond, Nordic Film & TV Fund, SF Norge, Swedish Film Institute, Norsk Filmstudio, Aschehoug Forlag, Vest-Agder Fylkeskommune. (International sales: AB Svensk, Stockholm.) Produced by Cato Bach Christensen. Co-producer, Anna Croneman. Directed, written by Torun Lian, based on her novel.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), John Christian Rosenlund; editor, Stian Johnsen; music, Oyvind Staveland, Odin Aarvik Staveland; production designer, Odd Ween; costume designer, Anne Pedersen, sound (Dolby Digital), Gunnar Meidel, Roy Fenstad. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Kinderfilmfest, 14 plus), Feb. 13, 2005. Running time: 94 MIN.

With

Julia Krohn, Bernhard Naglestad, Reidar Sorensen, Andrine Saeter, Ane Dahl Torp, Kim Sorensen, Gustaf Skarsgard, Maria Elisabeth A. Hansen, Marie Kinge. (Norwegian dialogue)
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