This tender, well-written Australian drama – directed by Sophie Hyde and co-written by Hyde and Matthew Cormack – follows an Adelaide family during a year of upheaval, using 52 weeks’ worth of short vignettes, to-camera diaries and snippets of conversations to present a more thorough overall picture of lives in a state of flux. For the most part it follows 16-year-old Billie (Tilda Cobham-Hervey, very good in her debut role), who is initially living with her lesbian mother Jane (Del Herbert-Jane) and Jane’s brother Harry (Mario Späte) at the start of the film, before moving in with her divorced father Tom (Beau Travis Williams) for a year while Jane transitions from woman to man. Jane chooses the name James and limits the time he spends with Billie to six hours every Tuesday, a move that puts great strain on their relationship. While principally focusing on Billie during this period, the narrative also pays plenty of regard to James’ transition, both in terms of the mental strain the character endures while going through several ups-and-downs, and also the physical changes and pain experienced both before and after Sex Reassignment Surgery. Meanwhile Billie herself is going through her own period of change, experimenting with her own sexuality after befriending two older students (one male, one female) at school. A story arc involving these three plays out in tandem with the transition of James, with Billie also clandestinely meeting her friends each Tuesday night for two hours while hoodwinking both of her parents into thinking she’s with the other.
The shoot for 52 Tuesdays mirrored the structure of the film, with the cast and crew meeting once a week for a year, and the use of a relatively long production time has paid off in a number of ways: an easy, natural rapport develops between some of the characters and it’s tempting to put this down to the actors’ burgeoning familiarity with one another, while the changes in their appearances – especially in terms of the haircuts of various characters – helps to signify the passing of time. (Intertitles and news footage is also employed, in a more direct fashion, and given the amount of cutting between different weeks it would be a tad disorientating without them.) The sincerely-treated trans subject matter and the sexual experimentation of the main protagonist marks this out as an outlier in terms of coming-of-age dramas, but there are also certain facets to the film that make one groan a little through over-familiarity, such as the way that nearly all of the issues that arise seem to have been neatly resolved by the end of the film. Hyde’s debut feature also suffers a little from one or two uneven performances, but Cobham-Hervey is one to watch and Herbet-Jane – who is gender non-conforming in real life – is very good at revealing James’ hurt and resilience in the face of harsh and ill-considered words from other family members.
Directed by: Sophie Hyde.
Written by: Matthew Cormack, Sophie Hyde.
Starring: Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Del Herbert-Jane, Mario Späte, Beau Travis Williams, Imogen Archer, Sam Althuizen.
Cinematography: Bryan Mason.
Editing: Bryan Mason.
Music: Benjamin Speed.
Running Time: 109 minutes.