Just Charlie is one of the most beautiful films I’ve seen. Coming from someone who has gone through the process of coming out as transgender and as a teenager, I can tell you right now that this film captures it all. So, if you’ve come to this year’s Mardi Gras Film Festival not knowing what’s it like to be a trans teen, I’d suggest you give this one a look.
We start out with Charlie. Handsome young Charlie who’s so good at football, a premiere league wants to pick him up and let him train at their academy. This is HUGE for Charlie’s Dad, who never had this opportunity. Flash forward to a wedding, and Charlie’s trying on clothes, he’s nicking his sister’s outfits and he stores them in a box in the woods. Inside a little box in the woods is Charlie’s escape – where he can feel feminine, and beautiful in his skin.
From there Charlie’s ‘secret’ is slowly uncovered, more to us the audience than his family at first, but soon everyone’s in the know. We accelerate through Charlie’s friends and family coming to terms with her identity, and move into the ‘public phase’ – arguably one of the hardest parts of coming out; you can’t just be trans in your room in your house – you’ve got to get out there and literally recreate yourself in the eyes of your community.
Harry Gilby’s performance as Charlie is truly stunning, Patricia Potter and Scot Williams’ portrayal of Charlie’s parents however are easily the most striking part of the film as often in movies dealing with trans characters, the focus of the plot is entirely on them and their struggle, whereas Rebekah Fortune’s film accurately and impressively ties in the difficulties of being a parent in this situation, which is only foregrounded by Potter and Williams’ amazing work.
The guys responsible for the soundtrack to this movie also deserve a heap of credit (Yann McCullough and Darryl O’Donvan) – there were several times whilst watching this when I said out loud ‘this is beautiful’, and many of those moments were accompanied by the innocent yet moving music of Just Charlie. I can guarantee that even if you have zero experience with anything transgender or queer, that this film will knock you off your feet, but place you gently back down by the end, leaving you feeling that perfect catharsis we experience cinema for.
Just Charlie screens at the 2018 Mardi Gras Film Festival