It’s hard to think of American films that have focused on transgender youth — because they just seem not to exist. The 1997 Belgian drama Ma Vie en Rose did it, as did the 2011 French film, Tomboy. The new trailer for Gaby Dellal’s About Ray, starring Elle Fanning, Naomi Watts and Susan Sarandon, reveals the film to at least be a good primer to a conversation that hasn’t yet been had in American cinema.
Especially with Transparent and to an extent I Am Cait, the American public now has some access to mainstream media through which they can more acutely understand the narratives of those who decide to brave societal adversity and embody their authentic selves in their much later years.
But for minors, it’s a different story, with identity often being dictated by adults in control — and the film looks to navigate the notion of needing permission to be oneself. The trailer introduces us to Fanning’s character, Ray, who’s beginning to transition and is seeking female to male hormone replacement therapy. Naomi Watts also stars as Ray’s mother, who seems to be the most accepting of the characters in Ray’s life, responding to her own mother’s question of “Why can’t she just be a lesbian?” with “Because she’s not a lesbian, she’s a boy.” But even she has her shortcomings when it comes to understanding Ray’s experience, leading Fanning to pointedly deliver the line, “I’m done with being an exception.”
It’s hard to tell yet whether the film looks good or just important (while still raising questions about casting that might not be as inclusive as the film’s message), as the trailer tries to emphasize the film’s sentimental moments. But it does seem as though Watts, Fanning and Susan Sarandon (playing Ray’s grandmother) all unsurprisingly deliver stellar performances.
Watch the trailer: