Title: 52 Tuesdays
Director: Sophie Hyde
Starring: Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Del Herbert-Jane, Imogen Archer, Mario Späte, Beau Williams, Sam Althuizen
No teenage daughter expects to hear after school one day from her mother that she is planning to begin transitioning into becoming a man. That is an early revelation from Jane (Del Herbret-Jane), who breaks the news to starry-eyed Billie (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) that she plans to begin getting testosterone injections and other measures in order to be the gender she has always felt she is. Uncomfortable with the idea of changing on a daily basis with her daughter around, Jane, who plans to take on the name James, suggests that Billie live with her father and the two spend six hours together every Tuesday for the next year.
This film is actually two stories, one of Jane’s transformation into James, which includes a number of unfortunate obstacles, including problems with testosterone and other people’s growing impatience with her/his status. The other is about Billie, who is seen speaking to a camera at the start of the film, recounting how she feels about the decision her mother has made without her and how it is affecting her life. The end result of Billie’s footage is only revealed late into the film, but it serves as a continuous testimony of how she really feels about what is going on with the mom she may soon call dad.
Not all Tuesdays go smoothly, as there are other influences in Billie’s life that occasionally get in the way of her spending time with her mother. She befriends two older kids at school whom she first observes having sex behind closed doors during the school day, and the three begin to spend the two hours of each Tuesday after Billie leaves her mom’s and before she goes to her dad’s interrogating and exploring each other, without any boundaries or limits, though Billie does keep her mom’s situation perpetually out of the conversation. Her father is a positive if sometimes absent influence, and her uncle Harry describes himself as more of a brother, irresponsible and no one’s idea of a real adult. He is the one who fuels Billie’s secret Tuesday night activities, providing her with the space knowing full well that her presence there means that she is deceiving both parents.
There are two performances at the center of 52 Tuesdays that make its concept feel utterly real and relatable. Herbret-Jane delivers an emotional, often reserved turn as Jane/James, always confident of who she wants to be but never comfortable with where she is in the process. Cobham-Hervey is energetic and curious as Billie, who seems so much older than she is, and it’s only when the weight of her actions is revisited that the film reminds viewers that she is merely a teenager. The format of the film, separated by titles with the date and week number and a quick video snapshot of a current event, helps to keep this saga in perspective. Neither character is who they were when the film began, and this in-depth story takes viewers on an involved and affecting journey.
This film is screening at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City as part of the World Cinema Dramatic Competition.
Written by Abe Fried-Tanzer