Charlie (Harry Gilby) is the star player in his high school football team in Tamworth in the Midlands, so much so that he is spotted by a talent scout who immediately offers him a place in a prestigious Football Academy. His father Paul (Scot Williams) is completely overjoyed as he had been the one pushing for this to happen, possibly a little too hard as it had been his own unfulfilled dream when he had been a kid.
Timing in life is as important as it is in sport, and the offer occurred at the same time when Charlie had starting experiencing some gender dysphoria which had completely disoriented him. He became sullen and withdrawn and despite all his father’s pleas. refused to accept the Academy’s offer. It wasn’t until his parents came home unexpectedly one night and caught him dressed up in his older sisters clothes, that the cat was out of the bag.
First there was denial, but then when his parents were told that his grades were dropping and he was no longer doing his homework, and they pressed Charlie for an explanation, he resorts to self-harm and is rushed to ER. Now with the doctors support, Charlie finally admitted what he was struggling with.
As shocked as they were, his mother (Patricia Potter) and his sister Eve (Elinor Machen-Fortune ) are quickly onboard and support Charlie’s quest to transition and go along with her desire to start hormone treatment as soon as possible even though the decision impacts their own lives and relationship. On the other hand, Charlie’s father whose initial reaction was that Charlie should just ‘man-up’ refuses to accept the situation, bringing him into direct conflict with his wife and both his children. Because of his stubbornness is seems that the family has to be torn apart before it can completely heal.
The real beauty of this movie that director Rebekah Fortune and writer Peter Machen adapted from their own short film, is the very way that the simple story normalizes the whole subject of transitioning and gender dysmorphia that is sadly too often sensationalized in fiction features. It is the straightforward honesty in how this almost mundane middle-class family deal with Charlie’s desire to be his true identity that gives them this opportunity to grow closer, that makes it all such compelling viewing.
Young Gilby is quite a phenomenal revelation and gives such a maturity to his performance as he literally transitions both emotionally and physically in front of our very eyes. His very sensitive and nuanced portrayal of Charlie is a sheer delight, and essentially the reason that this story appears as so authentic.
Any well-made movie such as this that makes a significant contribution to the continuing dialogue about the transgender community is always welcome, but when it is so inspiring as this, then it should be compulsory viewing for every family that have a Charlie in their midst.
P.S. The movie has just won the Audience Favorite Award at the presitiguous Edinburgh Film Festival.