What is an authentic life?
It’s not often that you see a trailer and it speaks to you on many levels, but that is what happened when I watched the trailer for the Australian drama “52 Tuesdays”, a story of a woman who tells her daughter that she intends on becoming male.
Despite being transgendered myself, I’ve rarely taken an interest in films about the subject as I don’t personally believe that there are two people anywhere in the world that are transgendered that have the exact same story, yet a lot of the films that I have seen prior to this seem to believe that all transgendered individuals have either exactly the same experience, or at least ones that are remarkably experience.
Don’t worry, I am not going to go into my own personal own transition, for those that are interested the full details are on my personal blog – FromTheMindOfKate
Anyway, it will be interesting to see how the female to male transition is portrayed (for those that don’t know, I write my intros before I actually watch the film) as I can’t think of any other films that I’ve seen where it portrays that transition, with others tending to focus on the male to female process.
But anyway, enough of my intro and onto the actual review….
Billie (Cobham-Hervey) comes home from school one day with her father on the promise of some groundbreaking news from her mother Jane (Herbert-Jane). When they arrive at Jane’s house, she has barricaded herself in the toilet, revealing herself a few minutes later with a bound chest and she tells Billie that she intends to change gender to male, changing her name to James.
To cope with the change, James has requested that Billie now live with her father, although she relents to seeing Billie every Tuesday. The relationship continues to be strong at first, but James’ transition inspires Billie to start inspiring her sexual boundaries and she starts recording videos about sex with Josh (Sam Althuisen) and Jasmine (Imogen Archer). Billie’s uncle Harry (Späte) soon finds out about her recording herself having sex with Josh and Jasmine, using it to his advantage.
James soon starts becoming ill from the hormone treatments and is forced to stop or face dying. This sends James into a depression and the relationship with Billie suffers, eventually driving the two apart and to the point where Billie no longer wants to see James, although will the revelations about Billie’s after school activities bring them back together?
A good eye opener to the female to male process?
This is not only a great eye opener to the process women go through to become men, but 52 Tuesdays is the most genuine attempt at the subject of changing gender that I have seen in a movie. Whilst not fast paced or action packed, this is the most realistic representation of transgenderism that I have had the fortune to witness on screen.
Whilst other films that are heavily focused on transgendered characters, such as TransAmerica, there are none that present this level of realism and the scary first steps that it takes to actually become who you feel you should be. The main reason for this is the heartfelt dialogue that all of the characters share throughout the film, and not just in positive conversations, but also with questioning and negative comments.
Not all transgendered individuals know the answers to every single question they will be asked, no matter what any other film will tell you. There are plenty of examples within the lengthy run time of 110 minutes in which a character asks a question and James answers with a simple “don’t know” or a level of uncertainty that can be expected from someone who had only decided relatively recently to transition.
For example, there is a conversation in which James reveals to Billie that there is a possibility that he will lose his hair once the hormones take effect. Billie asks him if he would want that given that it be a masculine feature, and James doesn’t actually no, it’s not something he had considered. I loved that, it just shows that no matter how much you plan or how many things you consider, there’s always something new that surprises you and you’re not sure where to go with it.
The dialogue also tells you a lot about what you need to know the characters as despite various characters being outwardly fine with Jane becoming James, but they let it slip that they either aren’t comfortable with it, or are having difficulties adapting, ranging from the obvious signs to the subtle uses to the female gender pronouns when talking about him.
Whilst the acting is superb (more on that in a moment), the dialogue is easily the best aspect of the film and comfortably the most believable part. This helps build intricate relationships between all of the characters, and it even establishes engaging secondary characters, of which my favourite is Harry, played wonderfully by Mario Späte.
Späte, despite only playing a secondary character behind the main relationship between Billie and James, almost steals the show as Harry and this is because he is arguably given the most complex character to play. It’s almost like watching a conundrum as you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get, and that essence of unpredictability is brought to like by Späte, and despite having a cumulative screen time of less than 20 or so minutes, Späte easily steals the show for me.
Don’t mistake that for the rest of the cast being awful, because they really aren’t, and Del Herbert-Jane captured the aura of a transgendered individual in a way like no other actor or actress in a film that I have ever seen. The determination, insecurities and devastation laid upon the character throughout the film’s run time is
I’ve mentioned the run time twice during this article already and at 110 minutes you would think that maybe the film drags, but it strangely doesn’t feel like it does. With a story divided into what is effectively 52 mini-chapters, it would be easy to make the film feel like it had odd pacing, felt rushed or unprepared, and the worst thing that they could have done was try and cram as much as they could into the run time, but there are some Tuesdays that are shown that are simply the two eating a meal, shown for 10 seconds and that’s it.
That realistic approach to time passage is something and the realisation that not every single scene has to have 10,000 things going on is that I’ve never seen in a film before. I say it’s realistic because not every meeting the two, especially during the times where there was a little tension, would be filled with anything other than the basics, so it almost says just enough of what it needs to say without feeling like it’s preaching. The scenes of narrative importance, such as when James reveals to Billie about her health problems, are spaced well enough apart to keep you interested, yet never feel like you’re being force fed information too often.
One of the easiest approval stamps I’ve had to give for some time and this is because 52 Tuesdays is a film that captures the essence of transgenderism so well. It’s not the Hollywood style of “fuck you all, I’m going to be who I want to be!”, it’s a more heartfelt and genuine story about the difficulties of the early stages of transition, and I know from personal experience that changing gender is harder on an emotional level than many films give it credit for.
52 Tuesdays succeeds with a captivating performance from every member of the cast and the method of time passage means that despite a lengthy run time, you rarely feel like you’re struggling to keep interested.
Granted, this is a more special interest feature, but if you’re going to watch any films focusing on a transgendered character, I would definitely recommend this one.