52 Tuesdays | Sophie Hyde | Australia | 2013 | 109 min
52 Tuesdays hits on a topic rarely explored in media until recently: the transformation from a woman to a man. It explores the topic in a way that avoids judgment, isolation and stereotypes. Here we see a family influenced by a mother, James (Del Herbert-Jane), transitioning into the gender she always felt she was. The other most affected by this change is James’ daughter, Billie (Tilda Cobham-Hervey), who also is trying to find herself. As refreshing as these representations are, the dramatic tension is undermined when the plot drags, so getting fully absorbed into the story is difficult.
James comes out to Billie as transgender, and asks her to move in with her father, Tom (Beau Travis Willaims) while James goes through the treatment. Their time together is reduced to Tuesday afternoons. Even though their time together is less frequent, the family remains extremely open with each other. James’ transformation, and videotaping of herself, influences Billie to also experiment sexually, and video tape herself as well.
This chronological plot is cut with footage alternating between Billie talking into a camera at an undetermined time and footage of world events, natural disasters and other random incidences. The reason and meaning behind the documentary-like footage, even that of Billie, was never made clear. I enjoyed the experimental style the addition of this footage produced, but the interruptions were too frequent and distracting. The extraneous shots made it hard to stay engaged with the main story.
Although 52 Tuesdays joins recent films and shows addressing transgender issues (Transparent, Transamerica), the film only scratches the surface on James’ psyche and experience, and instead focuses too much on how this transformation affects Billie. Billie is the typical whiny and entitled teenager. The scenes focused on James were the most interesting moments the film, and learning more about him would have lead to a better understanding of Billie. We see Billie struggling at moments, especially when her intimate space is intruded upon, but the reason and feelings behind her unhappiness is not entirely clear.
The teenage sex scenes that Billie videotapes made me uncomfortable. Billie and her two friends, Jasmine (Imogen Archer) and Josh (Sam Althuizen), are not dating but fool around for fun and to figure out what they like sexually. Though sexual experimentation is a stereotype of teenagers, I don’t think it happens to the extent T.V. and movies portray, and so the realism here is questionable. But director Sophie Hyde does capture the awkwardness of young and sober sex, which probably led to my discomfort.
52 Tuesdays is definitely ambitious. It refuses to reduce people to a label and instead presents the characters as ordinary people trying to find themselves. The film is not about the political side of transgender issues, it instead focuses on self-exploration. However, the story is too fragmented, largely because of the transitioning footage, and the dramatic tone is never consistent. Despite these faults in the film, hopefully Sophie Hyde has opened the door for future films to tackle the same topic.