Directed by: Sophie Hyde
Starring: Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Sam Althuizen, Imogen Archer
Shot on consecutive Tuesdays over the course of a year, Australian director Sophie Hyde’s first foray into feature-length filmmaking is an impressively experimental attempt to cinematically explore the transgender subject. It’s frank and fearless in its approach, but ultimately flawed in its execution.
The title refers to the time every week that 16-year-old Billie (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) sets aside to spend time with her mother Jane (Del Herbert-Jane), who’s in the process of going through a gender transition. Whilst Jane struggles to cope with the various setbacks in her treatment, Billie, now living with her easy-going father Tom (Beau Travis Williams), finds herself free to start exploring her own sexual desires, which she does by entering into an illicit threesome with two older students from her school (Sam Althuizen and Imogen Archer).
Inevitably, given its time-lapse framing, 52 Tuesdays invites comparisons with Richard Linklater’s remarkable coming of age drama Boyhood. And indeed, it shares some thematic similarities – this is, at its core, the story of a child who’s growing independent from their parents. Linklater’s film, however, was a far more successful attempt at using the timespan device. Here it leads to a structure that’s breezy and episodic, which makes the whole configuration feel rather redundant. Condensed into a 110 minute running time, what Hyde offers us is a series of snapshots that skims over much of the character’s story and curtails any chance of drawing great depth.
At its centre though are two tremendous performances. Del Herbert-Jane draws a moving portrait of someone desperate to feel comfortable in their own skin. However, it is Tilda Cobham-Hervey who anchors the film emotionally and holds the audience’s heart on a string as the teen learning about her own urges whilst lamenting upon her own feelings. Hyde, who co-wrote the story with screenwriter Matthew Cormack, ensures her characters are well defined, but her film sadly lacks definition.