This week’s #IFFReview is a logical extension of video blogging, employing ideas from time-lapse photography to explore characters’ emotions over time. Here is Insight friend and guest blogger Peter Malone’s review of the film.
#IFFReview: film #13
Director: Sophie Hyde
52 Tuesdays is a documentary or, rather, a docudrama, set in Adelaide. it has won several international awards, including one at the Sundance Festival.
The filmmakers have used the technique of filming every Tuesday for one year at a specific time, building up something of a cinematic/video diary of two of the central characters. This means a cumulative effect over the year, taking account of the different changes, even in appearance, of the characters.
While this technique is interesting in itself, one might compare it to the documentary Life in a Day, which used the contrary method of filming many episodes on the one day all over the world and editing them into a feature film.
But there is a particular interest in this story. We are introduced to a teenager, Billie (Tilde Cobham-Harvey), who immediately confides her situation straight to camera. She says that she has never had any secrets from her mother but is overwhelmed when she discovers that her mother, Jane (Del Herbert-Jane) has made the decision to have a transgender physical and psychological treatment to become ‘James’.
Most audiences are probably not familiar with anyone who has had a transgender procedure. This is an opportunity to see, to understand, what a person who has made this decision has to go through for themselves and for their family.
Jane is quite a sympathetic character, separated from her husband (Beau Travis Williams) but on good terms. Jane thinks it better if Billie goes to live with him during the time of the transition. At first unwilling, Billie decides to go. In the interactions, and clashes, about what is to happen, mother and daughter arrange to meet every Tuesday for a year. As the film proceeds, it lists the date as well as the number for the interaction.
Billie is a strong personality and as we follow her year, and her change of appearance; we see her bewildered, becoming obsessed with sexuality, observing and filming her friends and their sexual encounters. This brings her into trouble at school and with her friend with whom she is close. Her parents are informed and have to deal with the situation. Billie has moods over the year, unhappy with her mother at times, coming to terms with calling her James, reacting to material sent by computer from the US where James encounters transgender people. Billie also discovers the James is in a partnership with a woman friend.
James is doing something very different and is always trying to come to terms with what is happening, physical changes, psychological changes, emotional changes, dealing with Billie as a parent at the same time – which takes its toll.
There is a final confrontation, to do with the video material, with her parents, with the mother of her friend, and with her uncle (quite an odd and unexplained character with a daughter) with the teenage Billie having to come to terms, at least temporarily, in the situations of her life.
Some audiences may find the successive Tuesdays a strain on their attention and interest, even repetitive and at times tedious. Others will find the film an arresting documentation of characters in unusual situations.
Product links: #IFFReview: film #13 (UK only)
Film: Sophie Hyde, 52 Tuesdays (2013), DVD issue 2015, Tilde Cobham-Harvey, Del Herbert-Jane, Beau Travis Williams
Film: Kevin Macdonald et al., Life in a Day (2011), DVD issue 2011, Hiroaki Aikawa, Cindy Baer, Kathleen Meyer, et al.