52 Tuesdays

Billie (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) Credit by Bryan Mason
Directed by Sophie Hyde
Starring Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Del Herbert-Jane and Mario Späte
In UK Cinemas August 7th, 2015

by Haresh Patel

Lead actor Tilda Cobham-Hervey plays Billie, a self reflective teenage girl on the brink of awakening as an adult, and all the tribulations that brings. Her own transition story is complicated by the fact that her mum played by Del Herbert-Jane is transitioning from female to male.  The yearlong program of treatments and procedures exiles Billie to a visit every Tuesday. Naturally, things go awry.

The Australian suburbs are rendered in a part naturalistic documentary, part Norman Rockwell painting of suburban isolation, greasy tables, and smoggy nicotine stained walls.  There’s plenty of nodding attempts to Terrence Malick, as the characters meander through the mixed-media landscape trying to colour life inside the colourless petri-dish of the story.  The setup of the 52(ish) temporal vignettes works really nicely, and breaks up the linear narrative in a thoughtful way.

Time is kept for the audience with fleeting glimpses of world events, but the very non-nuclear family story is hermetically sealed in an ‘edge of the world’ Australian every-suburb.  Nicely digitally photographed on a very low budget, largely sympathetic acting and closeup, uncomplicated  framing lets the actors explore their characters on the screen.  Parts of it feel ad-libbed, much of it feels like it was shot in sequence, and it is certainly loosely directed by Sophie Hyde, whose documentary background really shines through in every scene.

The film explores the question of what is an authentic life. If you choose a new gender, are you making an authentic choice?  What does that do to the ‘authentic choices’ in the lives if your child?  Ironically, the film invests so much energy into this question it loses sight of the needs of a films’ dramatic requirements, and veers waywardly close to angsty-wanksty territory at times.  As Billie attempts to make sense of her life with her new-found friends, the authentic life pursuit runs against inner and outer secrets, and the search for individuality gets terribly misguided. Psychological damage is all around, even in the midst of apparently youthful liberation.

A ponderous and admirable attempt to do something more than crashing robots and fast cars, this film is certainly worth watching.  Maybe for her next film, Sophie Hyde can do a story about transgender issues of a post-internet AI, VR, robo-telepresence dismorphia kind of world.  That would be badass.

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