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'The Diary of a Teenage Girl' director surprised by stringent U.K. movie rating

The British Board of Film Classification deems teenage-coming-of-age tale not appropriate for teenagers

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This week the British Board of Film Classification deemed Marielle Heller’s Sundance smash The Diary of a Teenage Girl inappropriate for teenage girls. In a surprise to the filmmakers, the BBFC gave Diary an “18” rating, meaning no one under the age of 18 is permitted to see the film, whether or not they attend the movie with an adult.

In contrast, the Motion Picture Association of American, the U.S. ratings board, handed an R-rating out to the film, meaning minors are permitted to see the film if they are accompanied by an adult. 

“I’m not surprised we got an R-rating here,” says Heller in an interview with EW about her film which stars Kristen Wiig, Alexander Skarsgard, and newcomer Bel Powley. “We worked very closely with the MPAA in order to get that rating. I was pleased with that rating.”

Heller had an entirely different reaction to the BBFC’s rating decision. “The ’18’ was much more of a shock,” she said. “We were sure we were going to get a ’15.’ Maybe we were naïve.”

A “15” would have allowed moviegoers 15 and older to see her film about a teenage girl’s (Powley) affair with her mother’s boyfriend (Skarsgard). 

“Everything I had heard was that Europe would be more tolerant of sexual content and less tolerant of violence [in their rating decisions],” added Heller. “I never in a million years expected the rating in the U.S. to better reflect what I think the movie we made was. I expected Europe to be more on board.”  

Diary of a Teenage Girl opens in limited release on Aug. 7.