With a camera work and narrative style that generates a sense of realism, Thirteen takes us to intensely live the story of Tracy (Evan Rachel Wood) and her unique coming of age-self discovery story interlaced with deep family trauma.
Early in the film, we learn about Tracy’s difficult relationship with her mother Melanie (Holly Hunter), a recovering alcoholic working as a hairdresser in their own home. Tracy’s father is neglectful and both parents lack in emotional stability and care.
Even though Tracy she is able to express her emotions and needs they land in her parent’s deaf ears—something that leads her to seek value in other places. Reassurance somehow comes in the form of Evie (Nikki Reed), an older girl she tries to please by means of risky acts to be part of her popular group of friends. Stealing, using drugs or sneaking out to meet boys are the basis of their relationship—one that ends up being as emotionally lacking as Tracy’s relationship with her parents or more.
Tracy’s transgression crosses the line of what a woman can or cannot do. For example, her brother Brady is seen leaving family talks without explanation, he never has to tell his mother about his outings, and he can smoke weed with almost complete freedom. Meanwhile Tracy is being harshly criticized for the same things he does, as if her mother only finds them alarming when done by her.
This film stands out for its exploration of female characters, constructed far from being the stereotypical perfect women of a patriarchal society. It is a film that stays centered on Tracy’s story without deviating into anything other than her own inner world.
Ultimately, it is a story that revolutionized female teenager’s storytelling. A story that provides representation for many daughters of divorced parents, for teenagers who have experienced intense emotional pain, and for people who were never able to see their story embodied with such rawness on a movie before this. We felt seen and heard.