Just Charlie

You just need to man up, Charlie

Year Released : 2018

Director : Rebekah Fortune

Cast : Harry Gilby, Scot Williams, Karen Bryson and Travis Blake Hall

So I was waiting for my screening of “Jurassic World : Fallen Kingdom” (it’s awful, don’t watch it) earlier today and I decided to scour Youtube and it recommended the trailer for this. I was curious as to why at first as despite running a movie review blog, I don’t actually watch that many trailers, but I soon found out.

For those of you that have never read this site, I am transgender and despite not often referring to it on this site (I write about it on my personal blog – fromthemindofkate.wordpress.com), occasionally I come across a film that seems to resonate with me on a personal level and so I need to review it. This is one of those times.

Lets hope this is a realistic portrayal of life as a transgendered teen.

Plot

Charlie (Gilby) is a talented young footballer that is well above teammates and friends in terms of ability. One day Charlie is offered a chance to join Manchester City’s youth development scheme, but delays saying yes, much to the frustration of father Paul (Williams). What Paul doesn’t realise is that Charlie is using football to hide a desire to be female. Charlie gets finally gets (what we assume) a first cross dressing experience when she tries in her sister’s clothes in the woods behind their house.

After an argument with her parents following on from declining grades, Charlie again goes to the woods to cross-dress, but is witnessed by her football coach, who doesn’t say anything. A few days following this Charlie shaves her legs for the first time and applies full make up, only to be caught by Paul. Charlie finally confesses that she wants to be a girl, but Paul refuses to accept this, belittling her for being childlike.

Despite Paul’s objections, Charlie’s mother Claire (Bryson) takes her to a doctor and starts the process of changing gender. Charlie’s real problems start when starting to dress as female in public.

So a decent representation of trans youth?

Now admittedly I haven’t been a teen for a while (I’m 33 for context) so obviously my thoughts might be different from my experiences compared to someone who is a transgendered teen today. There is often a fine line when it comes to films like this. There are those films which have a good representation but are full of cliches, and those that have no cliches, but therefore lack a realistic approach. This is somewhere in between and for a lack of better words, if you want to understand what it is like for a transgendered child (going in either direction) then this is a film I can wholeheartedly recommend.

This touches on a lot of familiar situations, such as faking interests to throw people off (again similar to me as I used to play football on a regular basis, although unlike Charlie I was a pretty awful player), education suffering because of the desire, cross-dressing in private and one thing that a lot of transgendered related films don’t get right, the subtle changes in Charlie’s personality when in the female persona. It is these little things that lead me to believe that the film-makers actually went to some of the local support groups and actually spoke to transgendered people.

It would be far too easy to have Charlie turn into what could basically be described as a flamboyant caricature, but the film definitely takes a more realistic approach as the personality doesn’t actually change that much between personas, but there are definite noticeable changes, such as smiling a lot more. It’s subtle things like that that make all of the difference.

In terms of the actual film, because of the familiarity to my own circumstances I did find it somewhat predictable, there wasn’t a single bit that surprised me, but for someone who hasn’t got personal experience then this would be pretty fresh. This could also be a good educational piece for a lot of people, whether they are transgendered themselves, or know someone who is, right through to someone who even feels like some of the characters in the film and hating the concept of someone changing gender. “Just Charlie” shows that there is a vast online resource that helps people, including giving advice to the parents of children who want to change gender.

The dialogue is relatively simple, but it doesn’t have to have an elaborate screenplay to deliver a message and the best examples of this come in some of the quieter moments. The awkward conversations between Charlie and Paul are very true to life as I remember my parents being unsure how to approach a conversation when I told them, and the reactions of most of the characters will evoke a reaction from most, because pretty much every type of reaction is there, which is commendable.

Finally, Gilby is fantastic as Charlie, perfectly capturing the awkwardness that comes with the situation and to be fair he looks fantastic as a girl. He heads up a cast that does an outstanding job and no-one really puts a foot wrong, but Gilby is definitely the star. He has a big future ahead of him in movies and he is set to make his first Hollywood appearance in the upcoming “Tolkien” as the young version of the famed author.

Summary

If you’re at all interested in LGBT related films, or just transgender issues, then this is a great new addition to the genre. It is very true to life and gives a heartfelt view of it through the eyes of numerous characters, all with different standpoints.

This is a multi-layered and yet somehow simple look at life in a family after someone comes out as transgender and Harry Gilby is fantastic in the lead, heading up a cast who all give fantastic performances.

If you can find it (or have a subscription to NowTV) then I would definitely recommend you watch it.

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