52 Tuesdays
"There is no effort to sanitise characters' lives in order to get a message across, and as a result the film never feels preachy." | Photo: Visit Films

Sometimes knowing all the mechanics of the process and fully accepting the theory doesn't make life's big changes any easier to deal with. 52 Tuesdays charts the interactions of a family two of whose members meet only on Tuesdays over the course of a year. It was shot in the same way, each day's filming scripted just two weeks beforehand, so although the cast knew the basic storyline, no-one was quite sure what to expect. It's a film about changes and about people trying to stay together when the dynamics of their lives are pulling them apart.

Having borne a daughter and been a devoted parent for years, Jane (Del Herbert-Jane) is at the stage of no longer being able to cope with life in a female body. It's time for a change, for psychiatric assessments and Real Life Experience and testosterone and, eventually, surgery. But as Jane gradually changes to live as a man (now James), daughter Billie (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) is changing into a woman.

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The 52 Tuesdays of the title are the days James and Billie set aside to meet, to spend time that's just about them, after James asks Billie to move into her dad's place to give her some space. They are supposed to be a time when they can talk, but over time, what has always been a close relationship gradually weakens. Perhaps this would have happened anyway. James had been afraid of the discomfort that watching Billie mature physically could bring, but failed to account for the growth of a new personalty, another adult with a wholly new set of needs and desires. Billie, meanwhile, is completely cool with the idea of transition but hasn't accounted for the impact of her mother having big things to cope with and not always putting her first.

With her well intentioned yet inattentive dad paying only cursory attention to her comings and goings, Billie seeks out opportunities to explore and develop her own identity. Unsurprisingly, this includes her sexuality, yet bravely, although the people she experiments with are older, the film never paints her as a victim. She's confident, assertive; she hides her vulnerabilities well. What she doesn't understand is how to deal with the social consequences of her activities. Nevertheless, there's a hint that she might have found something that matters, something lasting and valuable; and that, ultimately, she and James might be able to reconcile as whole and honest adults.

There are very few films out there about trans men (contributing to the misconception that they're rarer than trans women) and 52 Tuesdays handles this part of its subject matter with unusual grace. This is due in part to Del Herbert-Jane, a genderfree person (neither male nor female) who initially came on board as an advisor and who fits easily into the role of James. It's also due to willingness on writer Matthew Cormack's part to create a character who isn't only trans, something many otherwise well intentioned filmmakers overlook.

This approach extends to other areas of the film: there is no effort to sanitise characters' lives in order to get a message across, and as a result the film never feels preachy. These are complicated people with a lot going on in their lives. We are thrown into the middle, initially as lost as they are. The film derives much of its humour from the way they dance around each other, deftly misunderstanding what ought to be obvious, but viewers shouldn't assume they are always in on the joke. With strong performances all round from its cast of unknowns, this is a well balanced film and well worth a look.

Reviewed on: 26 Jan 2015
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Over the course of a year, a teenage girl adjusts to life as a woman while her mother adjusts to life as a man.
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Director: Sophie Hyde

Writer: Matthew Cormack, Matthew Cormack, Sophie Hyde

Starring: Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Del Bert, Beau Travis Williams, Imogen Archer, Mario Spate, Sam Althuizen, Danica Moors, Susan Hyde, Greg Marsh, Audrey Mason-Hyde, Susie Skinner

Year: 2013

Runtime: 109 minutes

Country: Australia

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