×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Sundance Film Review: ‘52 Tuesdays’

This accessible narrative experiment boasts breakout talent in front of and behind the camera.

With:

Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Del Herbert-Jane, Mario Spate, Beau Travis Williams, Imogen Archer, Sam Althuizen, Danica Moors, Audrey Mason-Hyde.

A teenage girl’s sexual awakening coincides with her mother’s gender transition in “52 Tuesdays,” an Australian indie with an unusual narrative gimmick: It was shot over 52 consecutive Tuesdays, and only on Tuesdays, to capture a year of life onscreen. Boasting breakout talent both in front of and behind the camera (tyro director Sophie Hyde picked up a helming prize at Sundance), this accessible and mildly provocative drama could do sturdy arthouse business in the U.S. and other English-speaking territories.

Sixteen-year-old Billie (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) has always enjoyed a close relationship with her mother (Del Herbert-Jane), which is why she’s particularly shocked to come home from school one day and discover Mom locked in the bathroom, dressed as a man. The transition is about to become permanent, and during the yearlong adjustment period, Billie’s mother — who now asks to be called James — sends Billie to live with her father, Tom (Beau Travis Williams). James promises they’ll spend every Tuesday evening after school together, and Billie reluctantly agrees.

So begins a year of major changes for both Billie and James, recorded not just by the film we’re watching but also by their own video journals. Billie finds herself drawn to a couple at her school — Josh (Sam Althuizen) and Jasmin (Imogen Archer) — and slowly establishes a friendship that turns into sexual experimentation with both of them, most of which she films for an ethically dubious art project. Meanwhile, James begins testosterone shots and takes up with a co-worker, Lisa (Danica Moors), while keeping the relationship secret from his daughter.

Hyde and screenwriter Matthew Cormack favor Billie’s fairly conventional arc over James’ less explored experiences, but throughout the pic there’s a welcome emphasis on the parent-child relationship — something that perhaps surprisingly changes very little despite James’ physical transformation. James remains fiercely protective of Billie, never more so than when Billie’s racy videotapes surface. And Billie goes through the typical mood swings of a teenage girl, some weeks refusing to visit James but also demonstrating how much she cares when he suffers a setback that sends him spiraling into depression.

The non-pro cast received their scenes one week at a time, and the choice lends their performances a compelling blend of discovery and authenticity. A thoroughly beguiling newcomer blessed with offbeat beauty and natural charm, Cobham-Hervey makes a potentially irritating character a pleasure to spend a year with, even when she’s at her most selfish. Althuizen and Archer similarly leave vivid impressions that suggest greater opportunities ahead, while Herbert-Jane (who identifies as non-gender-conforming offscreen) is entirely credible in a nuanced role that still leaves the audience wanting more.

After a few initial questions from Billie (“Do I call you dad now?” “If you’re with [a woman] are they are lesbian or are they straight?”), James’ transition becomes a secondary concern and feels strangely underdeveloped considering the film spans such a lengthy period of time. “52 Tuesdays” instead attempts to explore the fluidity of gender identity in more delicate, less penetrating ways, from Billie’s own experimentation to a whimsical scene of her family donning pirate garb and facial hair for more farcical role play. That may also be the reasoning behind the effeminate affectations of James’ obnoxious brother, Nick (Mario Spate), who lives with him and encourages Billie’s worst behavior. More compelling are the short, docu-style segments of James interviewing other trans individuals during a brief vacation to San Francisco, and Billie watching a YouTube confessional of the daughter of a transgender woman.

Nevertheless, the pic serves as a promising calling card for Hyde and close collaborators Cormack, producer Rebecca Summerton and d.p.-editor Bryan Mason, all part of the South Australian creative collective Closer Prods. (also behind the 2011 Sundance competition documentary “Shut Up Little Man!”). Their shared vision is evident in the film’s intimacy and tonal consistency. While the unique achievement of filming once a week for an entire year may have been overshadowed at Sundance by Richard Linklater’s even more ambitious “Boyhood,” “52 Tuesdays” still demonstrates a willingness to experiment that bodes well for future endeavors.

Sundance Film Review: ‘52 Tuesdays'

Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (World Cinema — competing), Jan. 23, 2014. (Also in Berlin Film Festival — Generation 14plus.) Running time: 114 MIN.

Production:

(Australia) A FilmLab presentation of a Closer Prod. production in association with the South Australian Film Corp. and Adelaide Film Festival. Produced by Bryan Mason, Matthew Cormack, Rebecca Summerton, Sophie Hyde.

Crew:

Directed by Sophie Hyde. Screenplay, Matthew Cormack; story, Cormack, Hyde. Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Bryan Mason; editor, Mason; music, Benjamin Speed; music supervisor, Debra Liang; production designer, Hyde; sound, Leigh Kenyon, Josh Williams, Dane Hirsinger, Will Sheridan; re-recording mixer, Pete Smith.

With:

Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Del Herbert-Jane, Mario Spate, Beau Travis Williams, Imogen Archer, Sam Althuizen, Danica Moors, Audrey Mason-Hyde.

More Film

  • Donald Trump Chucky Childs Play

    'Child's Play' Stars on New Chucky's 'Creepy' Resemblance to Donald Trump

    At Wednesday night’s world premiere of the “Child’s Play” remake, it was obvious that evil doll Chucky — the star of seven films over three decades — had a little work done. And now he bears a striking resemblance to Donald Trump. “Oh, you caught that?” Aubrey Plaza asked Variety on the black carpet outside [...]

  • Academy Museum of Motion Pictures Opening

    Academy Museum Opening Delayed Again to 2020

    The opening date of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures has been delayed again, this time to an unspecified date in 2020. The museum, now under construction at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue, has long been beset by delays and cost overruns. In December 2018, the Academy announced that it would open [...]

  • Bradley Cooper speaks at the 30th

    Producers Guild Shifts 2020 Awards Show to Hollywood Palladium

    The Producers Guild of America will hold its 31st Annual Producers Guild Awards at the Hollywood Palladium, shifting the site from the Beverly Hilton Hotel. The PGA had already announced that the show would take place on Jan. 18. The organization, which represents more than 8,000 producers, announced Thursday that it has launched a new [...]

  • Adam Driver appears in The Report

    Amazon’s ‘The Report’ Gets U.K. Theatrical Release Ahead of Streaming Launch

    Amazon Studio’s “The Report” will be released theatrically in the U.K. three weeks before it lands on the Prime Video streaming service. The Scott Z. Burns film tells the story of Daniel J. Jones, a U.S. Senate staffer who worked to reveal that truth about an “enhanced interrogation” program run by the CIA in the [...]

  • Elton John performing at Earls Court,

    Elton John Has a Message for Struggling LGBTQ Youth: 'Be Proud of Who You Are'

    Elton John isn’t at a loss for words when asked if he has a message for young LGBTQ people who are struggling with their sexuality or gender identity. In an exclusive interview with Variety at last month’s Cannes Film Festival, just hours before the world premiere of his long-in-the-works biopic “Rocketman,” John spoke candidly about the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content