Starring: Elle Fanning, Naomi Watts, Susan Sarandon, Linda Emond, Tate Donovan, Sam Trammell
Directed By: Gaby Dellat
Plot: Ray (Fanning) is a 16 year old pre-op girl to boy transgender teen. He has always known he was a boy, and has been attempting to live as a boy for years. He’s finally at the crossroads where he can take testosterone, and has dreams of changing schools where no one knows that he used to be a girl. His mom (Watts) is struggling to be supportive. Her mom (Sarandon) and her mom’s partner (Emond) are somewhat supportive too. There’s just one catch. The paperwork requires the signature of both parents.
What Works: Elle Fanning is terrific here. Even when the film is at its most unbalanced, or directionless self, Fanning’s performance is still fully realized and compelling in its own right. Naomi Watts just was OK for me. I mean, she hits all the marks, but my problem was that she had no chemistry with anyone. It’s like her performance was self contained, and she shot all her scenes on her own. Sarandon and Emond are both good. This film does a fairly decent job of really exploring a very unique family going through this “transition”. But honestly, the anchor and the heart and soul of the film is Fanning.
What Doesn’t Work: Poor direction? Not only is this film melodramatic, a word I don’t use very much because I don’t actually believe it applies to many films, but it also has just some really shitty directing. There’s this boyfriend character that pops up for a second, he’s never referenced before, and then he’s gone again. His scenes are contained in a back-to-back pattern that is so abrasive, it’s gross. And they repeat this later with Matthew (Trammell), who appears in one scene with Watts where he says he’s leaving, but then later is seen talking to Sarandon. Is it the same visit? A different visit? It feels like a different visit, but it’s hard to tell. There’s a character who is named Sinda, I assume just so Naomi Watts could make a Simba joke. I know this film had its heart in the right place, I just wish it was a different director.
Final Word: I think there’s an important message here, and Elle Fanning really commits to making sure that message comes across with the most honesty possible. She is terrific as Ray. If you can get past the direction, there might be something here worth your time.
Final Grade: B-