Boy Meets Girl

***1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Michelle Hendley and Alexandra Turshen in Boy Meets Girl
"Ricky is a strong willed and confident character who defies every familiar victim stereotype."

They say romance is changing. They've been saying it since the Forties. If you actually talk to young people, you might find it's more the case that attitudes to sex, sexuality and gender and changing, but romance works just as it always have. That's certainly true of the romantic comedy. Eric Schaeffer's new film might appear modern on the surface but underneath it's a timeless tale of growing up, falling love and discovering one's identity.

Rob (Michael Welch, showing there's life after Mandy Lane) and Ricky (Michelle Hendley, an actress who's really a make-up artist - it's usually the other way around) have been best friends "since about the first grade". He has a reputation for sleeping around and she just can't find the right guy. Why not try a girl? he suggests. Right on cue, in walks Francesca (Alexandra Turshen), wide eyed and smiling and keen to make friends. There are just three problems. Ricky isn't sure how Francesca will respond to her being transgender. Ricky isn't sure if she can cope with Francesca's family being Republicans. And Francesca's fiancé, currently serving in the military overseas, used to hit Ricky at school.

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At this point it's worth noting that what's pretty run of the mill for many viewers will be revolutionary for trans people. Not only is Hendley trans herself (but good enough to show there's been no compromise on casting), Ricky is a strong willed and confident character who defies every familiar victim stereotype. She's comfortable with her body, even though she can't yet afford the surgery she'd like to have; she's bold in dealing with bullies; and she's accepted and supported by her father and brother, having already got the business of coming out out of the way. In other words, this isn't just another coming out or transition story; her transness is just one aspect of who she is. Alongside it she has all the ambition and angst and curiosity of an young person in such a tale, and the sexually ambiguous status of her body is relevant only in terms of how it affects other characters' developing identities.

Alongside this refreshing realism about gender, the film has a relaxed attitude to sexuality which will gel with the experiences of many young people today (even if not every character is individually relaxed about it). It throws in just enough sleights of hand to ensure we don't take characters' attitudes for granted and to problematise the easy divisions in US society that too much comedy relies on. There's not a lot of overt comedy in there (though some insider jokes will have trans viewers in stitches) but the romance flows in typically tangled style. In places it's far too derivative and one can guess every line before it's spoken. This is compensated for by a genuinely engaging cast and a willingness to throw realism (even in dialogue) under the bus when the pacing threatens to stall.

Young audiences, having seen less of this kind of thing, are liable to be considerably more entertained by it than older ones. Some will no doubt need a few tissues by the end. It's a modest little film that doesn't aim too high, but every aspect of it is well made and it's sure to attract devotees. One can only hope that it doesn't get kicked into the LGBT genre box but enjoys the wider audience it deserves.

Reviewed on: 14 Apr 2015
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Boy Meets Girl packshot
A young trans woman who can't find the right man takes a chance on dating another woman.

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