The Coming of Age: A Review of Sofia Coppola’s “The Virgin Suicides” Essay

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Adolescence is often characterized as bright, lively, and full of new beginnings. This particular period in our life opens many possibilities that would later on define and mould our fate. There is only a little chance wherein adolescence would be completely associated with sadness, mystery, pain, tragedy, and death. This small possibility, however, has been explored in the movie “The Virgin Suicides”. In this particular film, the coming of age or loss of innocence among teenagers is the salient topic where the story mainly revolved.

Adolescents and the Coming of Age

The film offers a variety and wide- range of themes. These include deterioration of the family, microcosm for society, the battle between boys and girls, and many other. However, the most salient of all the themes is the one that talks about the coming of age or loss of innocence among teenagers.

“The Virgin Suicides” tries to depict the complexity of the adolescence period through the use of the characters such as the Lisbon sisters and the teenage boys. In this movie, the five sisters are already on the verge of adolescence and ready in approaching the parting ways between childhood and adulthood. During this period, both the teenage girls and the teenage boys faced the challenges of the coming of age or losing their childhood innocence. However, this new stage in their lives, were somehow controlled by several factors, including family, religion, and society.

The movie offers a lot of scenes to illustrate how the coming of age or losing innocence was experienced by the Lisbon sisters. Each of them had their own situations that depicted her being an adolescent. The elder Therese, for example, becomes more open in her studies when reached the adolescence stage. She particularly loves science. Mary, the second one, was exploring more on her appearance. Of all the Lisbon sisters, she spends the longest time in front of the mirror. Bonnie, being the middle child, grew up to be quiet and pious.

Her silent manner reflects her growing as a womanly individual. Lux, the most adventurous of all, shows her losing of innocence through subjecting herself to earthly materials: cigarettes, gin, and sex. Finally, the youngest Cecilia seems to be weirdest among the five.

She used to wear a 1920s vintage wedding dress that is stained and cut short. Losing her innocence seems to happen only in the physical level as she was already menstruating before he jumped on a spiked fence. At the end of the story, they died in various manners: Therese drank sleeping pills and gin; Mary also drank sleeping pills; Bonnie Hanged herself; Lux died due to carbon monoxide poisoning, and Cecilia threw herself on spiked fence.

With this theme, the film could be said possessing a value. It is a movie that tries to teach something about life by using characters in their period of adolescence. Probably, it wants to tell how complex the stage of adolescence is. Without proper guidance from the people round them, teenagers will surely be led in a dark situation, the worst of which is death.

The death of the Lisbon sister, in my opinion, was a product of strict parenting method of Mr. and Mrs. Lisbon. Mr. Lisbon was described in the story as someone loss in the enormous amount of femininity in their house. He was also often cowed by his wife. This would probably justify why he preferred to be alone at the middle of the story: eating lunch alone in his classroom and watching baseball.

He sees his daughters as complete strangers, even if he loves them so much. Mrs. Lisbon, on the other hand, shoes to be a strict mother of the girls. She is sceptic of the outside world that’s why she often let her daughters stay outside. She believes that her children would be better inside the house under her watchful eyes. She was so strict, and perhaps not open-minded enough to think that her daughters are already growing up and changing inevitably.

I also think that aside from family, religion greatly affects the personality and thinking of the adolescents. In this movie, particularly, religion was used to portray how powerful it can become. The Lisbon family, particularly the mother, is a devoted Catholic. Most of her strict, matriarchal rules in the house were products of her religious beliefs. She was too conservative that she always check the girl’s appearances and lifestyle, making it sure that they do no wear even the slightest make-up or any revealing clothes.

She also prohibits them from listening to rock music. Because of this, the Lisbon sisters grew up to be conservative and religious, especially Cecilia. She always prays to the Virgin Mary. She also has this particular crucifix. Lux, on the other hand, being the rebellious among all, often go against the teachings of her mother. In a particular scene, one of the teenage boys, Peter Sissen, was having a dinner with the family.

Going to the bathroom, he passed Lux’s room and saw the girl’s brassiere hanging from Cecilia’s crucifix. This particular scene, in my opinion, connotes Lux’s rebellion against the Catholic religion. For me, the brassiere on top of the crucifix suggests that Lux favors more her sexuality and carnal needs. From this point, I could say that religion gave the Lisbon sisters different and opposite personalities. It therefore suggests that religion is one of the powerful institutions that cultivate the adolescents’ way of thinking and perception of the world.

“The Virgin Suicides” is a highly- recommendable film. It reflects the present life, issues and problem that adolescents of today face. It has a compelling plot and a set of characters that are easily getting to relate with. The film also offers surprises through some twists and turns that were intensified more by the mystery behind the death of the Lisbon sisters.


Eugenedis, J. (1994). The Virgin Suicides. KS: Tandem Library

Millard, K. (2007) . Coming of Age in Contemporary American Fiction. UK: Edinburgh

University Press

Wolfman,.B.B. (1998) .Adolescence: Biological and Psychosocial Perspectives. Greenwood

Publishing Group

The Virgin Suicides. Directed by Sofia Coppola. 1999