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Australia 2013
Directed by
Sophie Hyde
109 minutes
Rated TBA

Reviewed by
Andrea Buck
4.5 stars

52 Tuesdays

Synopsis: 16-year-old Billie (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) is happily growing up, living mostly with her mother (Del Herbert-Jane). Seemingly from nowhere, the mother drops the bombshell that she needs space and time to transition to become a man and Billie will now have to live with her Dad (Beau Travis Williams). A deal is struck. Billie and Mum will spend one day a week together, every Tuesday, for the year dedicated to her mother’s transition.

Sophie Hyde’s little miracle of a film came into being unstifled by the conventions of traditional story development imposed on most Australian films. Hyde, who co-wrote the story with Matthew Cormack, adopted a unique strategy to develop the script and shoot the film using self-imposed rules that gave it space and time to be organic and grow into itself in a way a fully pre-scripted drama seldom does.  It was filmed over the course of a year, once a week, every week, on a Tuesday. The brilliance of it is that it does not feel meandering or disjointed. It maintains a sure-footed pace and evident structure but with rare and refreshing complexity.

52 Tuesdays is about growth and transformation. It cleverly reveals in delicate detail the practicalities, the impact and emotional complexities of gender transformation, without making them the film’s central focus which is about the awakening of Billie as she is accelerated by circumstances into uncovering her own response to sex and sexuality.

The theme of Billie’s self-discovery is the dramatic spine of the film, which is a mature telling of her bumpy ride into adulthood. 52 Tuesdays is NOT your typical coming-of-age story. It is as though the child has been cast astray to give the parent time to grow up again, As a result we are witness to the growing up of Billie, unprotected by an adult. And in we go.  We watch Billy watching two fellow students, Josh (Sam Althuizen) and Jasmin (Imogen Archer) having sex and from this unusual beginning a friendship is born. There is an intimacy in this ‘threesome’ friendship that we watch as the teenagers discover themselves and each other, with Billie capturing the sexual exploration on her own camera. The three ‘kids’ take themselves, both innocently and rebelliously to the edge of the line between childhood and adulthood.

Although 52 Tuesdays won the Crystal Bear for the Best Film in Generations 14+ at the Berlin Film Festival, I expect that most parents would consider this all a bit too suggestive for kids under 16. There is also a fine line here that abuts issues of voyeurism in an adult audience watching these kids watching each other in their intimate, private growth. Yet uncomfortable as it is, we keep watching.

The actors are non-professional. Amazing! The performances are authentic and dramatically spot-on. Del Herbert-Jane is so good in this film. Perhaps the role was a perfect personal match, a one-off but everything indicates signs of a new career should that be a desire. Then there’s Tilda Cobham-Hervey. She is so engaging and delightful, and authentic and fresh and gorgeous. Watch out for a new star having just been born.

52 Tuesdays is sublime film-making. It avoids conventions and clichés. It is subtle, complex, intriguing and confronting. We could do with more stories of this calibre in Australia. Films like this are not made by committees but by artists with a clear intention who allow for collaboration and the space for their vision to breathe and grow. Congratulations to the investors of this film for believing in the makers and supporting their unconventional approach.




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