It is an understatement to say Just Charlie isn’t a film you see every day. Just Charlie highlights the difficulties and obstacles a 14-year-old girl (the titular Charlie) has to face when she comes out as trans to her family. Stories dealing with trans issues are already rare, and stories dealing with trans youth even more so, so the filmmakers must be applauded for tackling an issue that is often shrouded in ignorance and bigotry with respect and sympathy.
Just Charlie’s cinematography serves to highlight Charlie’s discomfort with her own body, all of which is heartbreakingly portrayed by Harry Gilby, a young actor who is definitely one to watch. The film shows the effects of violence on Charlie, but does not sensationalize or revel in it; instead tastefully focusing on the aftermath and trauma transphobic violence creates. The quiet, subdued cinematography and the measured editing means Just Charlie focuses on the emotions and reactions of the characters, and how each of them responds to Charlie’s situation.
The film makes a wise decision to centre on the immediate family and local community. This allows the filmmakers to really examine the relationships and reactions of those close to Charlie, and how everyone does what they can to understand her. While Charlie’s mother and sister instantly support Charlie, her father takes longer to come around (although the moment when he does is very understated and sweet). However, while the film focuses on the local community and family’s feelings regarding the situation, this often means Charlie herself does not get that much focus on her feelings and emotions. This is a shame, as it leaves Charlie slightly under-defined outside of her gender identity and love of football. I’d liked to have seen more of her thoughts, rather than how the other characters react to her.
Overall, Just Charlie is a good stepping-stone for trans cinema. It does many things right, creating a poignant film that can show how to build a supportive community for trans people, specifically trans children. However, it’s still flawed, prioritizing the reactions of her family over the main character. Similarly, beyond the support from a couple of trangender-based charities, there seems to not be any trans people involved in the filmmaking as director, screenwriter, or actor. This continues the existing trend of cisgender people telling the stories of transgender people, who struggle to find work in the filmmaking industry. What could have been a great chance for a trans filmmaker to tell their own story, instead feels like a missed opportunity.
This film will screen at the opening of the Glasgow Youth Film Festival at the Glasgow Film Theater on Friday the 22nd of September. Tickets are available here: http://glasgowfilm.org/shows/gyff-opening-gala-just-charlie-nc-12
The GFT also offers a free 15-25 discount card for students, available here: http://glasgowfilm.org/plan-your-visit/memberships/15-25-card