By Jess Lomas
May 6, 2014
Billie (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) is sixteen when her mother James (Del Herbert-Jane) begins undergoing gender transition to become a transgender man. Sent to live with her father Tom (Beau Travis Williams), Billie is only allowed to visit James every Tuesday after school for one year; a weekly appointment documented in Sophie Hyde‘s 52 Tuesdays. The tale is told in chapters of varying length, where each Tuesday the transition process, Billie and James’ evolving relationship, and Billie’s experimental friendship with Jasmine (Imogen Archer) and Josh (Sam Althuizen) are revisited.
Framed by Billie’s video diaries, in which she battles with what a normal family is and the changes she’s witnessing in her mum and herself, 52 Tuesdays is an ambitious and gutsy feature debut by director Sophie Hyde. Above all, the flick is frank and challenging; it challenged its actors to film within a structured time schedule (only on Tuesdays), and it challenges its audience to question the representation of traditional gender identification in both cinema and society.
The movie stands out for all of the right reasons. It’s a breath of fresh air, especially within the Australian industry, and not just because of its unique approach to shooting. (The Tuesday shooting schedule could appear to be a gimmick as it doesn’t necessarily add or detract from the final product, which likely could have been filmed consecutively and yielded a similar result. One would presume this framework existed purely for the cast, only aware of their scenes one week in advance.)
Considering the involvement of non-professional actors, the performances are naturally uneven though wholly commendable. Cobham-Hervey is delightful to watch and appears entirely comfortable giving a naturalistic turn as a curious teen growing up quickly. Herbert-Jane as the transitioning James is underplayed and in turn believable, despite the occasionally flat delivery distracting. The stand out performance for pure entertainment value however is Mario Spate as Billie’s Uncle Harry, without whom the picture would be decidedly one-note.
52 Tuesdays is an example of how filmmaking can transcend the screen, making you aware of an issue and prompting you to think about the real-life people and their families transitioning, as James and Billie are, without descending into a heavy-handed or alienating presentation. There’s much to admire here once you overlook the flaws of a small-budget production, and the exciting promise of future offerings from the skilled Hyde in directing and Cobham-Hervey in acting is an added bonus.
52 Tuesdays is now showing in cinemas.