Movie Review – 52 Tuesdays

As an Australian I am very proud of the success that 52 Tuesdays has received internationally, however, when watching this film it took me quite a while to connect with the characters and fully invest in the conflict. I gradually warmed up to the film as it went along, but by the end I was left with fairly mixed feelings.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Teenage girl Billie (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) is sent to live with her father for 12 months when her mother (Del Herbert-Jane) makes the decision to undergo gender transition surgery. Over the course of the year Billie visits her mother once a week every Tuesday, but her relationship with her mother struggles to survive the challenges of the transformation. Billie uses her time with her mother to conceal the sexual experiments she gets up to afterwards with her friends, Jasmine (Imogen Archer) and Josh (Sam Althuizen).

I can’t even imagine what it would feel like to be a man trapped in a woman’s body, or vice versa, but either way, it would be a very confusing experience, which is why I think the film itself was quite confusing. There are many details in the film that are never thoroughly explained and you are sort of left to flounder about and make up your own assumptions. For instance, there is a youngish man called Harry that lives with Billie’s mother. His relationship with Billie at first seems to be either romantic or brotherly, but then later he admits that Billie is his niece. Harry seems to be homosexual, but he has a young child who he looks after once a month. He also has a very nasty streak in him, which becomes more pronounced over the course of the film. This character trait left me baffled. I could not understand the motivation behind his cruelty toward Billie and found myself nauseated by the emotional torture he inflicted upon her.

There are two main storylines in the film; Billie’s relationship to her mother being one, and her relationship with her friends being the other. I think the second plot with the friends tended to take over the narrative a little too much. It would have been fine as a subplot, but at times it fights the other storyline for the spotlight. As an audience member you feel as though you are being tugged in two different directions, which again, I think was the intention.

The lines between male and female are constantly blurred throughout the film. Take the main character. Billie is traditionally a male name. At one point in the film she chops of her long locks and opts for a short, boyish cut. She dabbles in lesbianism, but also seems to equally enjoy sex with men.

All of these techniques and choices can be justified as a creative way of exploring themes of gender and sexuality, and how what is considered to be male versus female can no longer be clearly defined, nor does it need to be so explicitly defined in this day and age. I can appreciate how clever the film is and the amount of thought that has gone into it, but personally, I really did not like these stylistic choices. I found it to be distracting as I was too busy trying to make sense of things that really didn’t matter when I should have been focussed on what was happening in the story.

On the other hand, however, the performances are top notch. All of the cast deliver very raw and authentic performances. As far as I am aware, the majority, if not all of the cast are non-actors, which is why the film seemed so natural. At times I thought Tilda Cobham-Hervey showed signs of brilliance, but other times she showed her inexperience. Del Herbert-Jane is definitely the stand out in the film. I don’t think the film would have worked at all without her. She was very convincing, both in physically and emotionally portraying her character’s transition. I have to say that Mario Spate, who plays Harry, was also very good, as he made me loathe his character.

The cinematography is very beautiful as is the way the drama in the film is handled. It never enters histrionic territory and always remains grounded. It could have easily turned out to be an overly emotional, issue-pushing film, but thankfully it did not. The film covers a very sensitive, almost tabbooed topic, but it handles this subject matter respectfully, and even at times with a little bit of humour, which was quite nice.

There are a lot of impressive things about this film and it is really quite groundbreaking in the way it tackles the topic of gender transition, which is not commonly explored on film. Whilst I appreciate this, I personally did not enjoy the film as much as I would have liked. I think it’s really a matter of personal preference; some people like purple, others prefer green, and there’s nothing wrong with that. If you are a fan of Australian independent cinema I would recommend you go and see it. Even if it’s not your cup of tea it is definitely worthwhile watching due to its uniqueness.

Images courtesy of Vendetta Films

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