Just Charlie

Jun 26, 2017 | Posted by in 2017, EIFF
EIFF

A young football prodigy faces difficulties after coming out as Transgender in Rebekah Fortune’s Just Charlie.

It goes without saying that this film deals with a very emotive subject. Shifting gender identity is something that many people have to deal with either directly or through association so this film taps into something that really deserves to be covered.

Before I begin I have to note that my personal experience with all that is involved in coming out as Transgender is very limited so if this film completely misses the point on what people actually go through then that’s not something I’ll be aware of. I can only judge it on how well the material came across to me.

The film follows Charlie (Harry Gilby), a young boy who has his whole life in front of him and looks like he has a bright future in Football. He’s certainly talented and that talent has been recognised which makes his father very proud.

Charlie is almost immediately shown to be suffering an identity crisis. He secretly dresses in clothing meant for girls and clearly feels more comfortable doing so. As time goes on he feels anxious when he isn’t able to wear them which leads to his family finding out.

Just CharlieVery early on we learn that Charlie is living a lie and admitting that to himself is the first step on a long transition to getting to the point where he feels comfortable in his own skin. The portrayal of this journey is raw, powerful and emotionally charged with the effect this has on every part of his life.

One of the major obstacles Charlie faces is gaining acceptance from those around him. His mother, Susan (Patricia Potter) and sister, Eve (Elinor Machen-Fortune) are immediately supportive of him but his father, Paul (Scot Williams) is a completely different story.

Paul is very old fashioned in his thinking; it’s established that he worked in a factory and doesn’t want that for Charlie who has the opportunity to embrace a bright future in Football. The news that his son is Transgender is something he doesn’t take very well and it causes a lot of friction between them. I really liked that Paul wasn’t portrayed as the villain of the piece because his intolerance was more motivated by shock than anything else. Paul has a journey to go on towards accepting that his son isn’t happy the way he is and needs to change that. I imagine that for some people it’s difficult to come around to a way of thinking that hadn’t been considered before so it was good to see this side of it represented even if those scenes were more difficult to watch.

There are other difficulties Charlie faces on the road to acceptance. Going to school really isn’t easy for him because the other children tease him for being different. It can be difficult to watch but the point is to experience this from Charlie’s perspective and the fact that he isn’t accepted by those around him right away makes the whole thing feel far more real. The film did a great job of showing how his best friend reacts and how that drives a wedge between them.

The different elements that make up Charlie’s struggle are all really powerfully handled. Seeing the reactions range from intolerant to tolerant and pretty much everything in-between is really eye opening and fascinating. It’s a deeply emotional story taken from Charlie’s perspective and isn’t afraid to show the full range of what he experiences.

Harry Gilby delivers an astounding performance in the title role. His portrayal of the fear, uncertainty, anxiety and the growing sense of comfort as he becomes who he feels he is supposed to be is really impressive to watch. His relationship with his parents and friendships feel completely lived in to the point that it’s easy to see the adjustment period that those close to him also have to deal with.

On the whole the tone leans towards positive. There are moments of effective angst and visceral emotion but the transition is always portrayed as something positive for Charlie. Taking this path helps sell the message that being true to yourself is a positive thing and the message of not living a lie because of what other people might think of you is loud and clear.

The film doesn’t often falter but there’s a tendency to overplay some of the experiences while downplaying others. Some of the more interesting challenges somewhat fall by the wayside. It’s inevitable since the film deals with such a broad issue and has a lot of ground to cover but there is noticeably a lot of content and the ending doesn’t quite work for reasons that I won’t spoil.

Verdict

An excellent and moving film that tells a deeply personal and emotional story. Harry Gilby delivers an astounding performance as the title character and the journey he takes is wonderfully written. Lots of perspectives and reactions are given to the situation which sometimes bogs the film down but not too much. On the whole the treatment of the transition is positive. It isn’t always easy but it’s always seen as the right thing for him to be doing and that being true to yourself despite what people might think is a positive thing.

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