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Streaming movie review - Netflix
High school is a weird time. You could be doing some more adult things like driving and working at a job. You’re starting to think about what you want to do with your life when you don’t have to go to school every day. You might have a romantic relationship that really means something to you and can break your heart or lead to a long-term partnership. But you’re also still a kid with rules imposed on you by your parents and your teachers. Polish writer and director Marta Karwowska explores these themes along with gender expression in her latest film, “Fanfic”, currently streaming on Netflix.
Toska (Alin Szewczyk) is an outsider at school. One thing that allows her some measure of escape from her life is her writing. When she meets Leon (Jan Cieciara), she incorporates him into her fanfiction. One night, before heading to a party with Leon and their friend Konrad (Krzysztof Oleksyn), Toska binds her chest and wears boy clothes, spending the night as Tosiek. Tosiek transitions, using male pronouns, cutting his hair, and dressing more masculine. Now that he’s Tosiek, how will his friends, his father (Dobromir Dymecki), and Leon all react?
This was an interesting movie. My biggest gripe with it was that this movie had a lot of jarring tonal shifts. There are moments when Tosiek is writing his fanfic that are very whimsical. Then it will cut to a more traditional drama. Then it will edge into a quirky teen movie. While these disparate styles could come together to make something unique, in this context, I just felt like there wasn’t much rhyme or reason for it, so it just felt disconnected.
The performances in this were quite good. I particularly liked the dynamic between Szewczyk and Dymecki as father and child. I thought their conversations felt honest, and the two of them played off of one another well. Agnieszka Rajda also did a great job as Tosiek’s biggest fan and also conscience.
I really appreciated that it showed a trans kid’s experience without couching it in layers of trauma. While there are people who question Tosiek’s transition, he doesn’t experience physical or verbal violence. When his dad doesn’t understand his transition, he goes and finds someone else to sort through his questions and concerns rather than dumping that on Tosiek. When a friend wondered how he didn’t know before high school, he gave a thoughtful answer. Additionally, Tosiek has a cadre of queer friends there to support him. Often in these kinds of movies, the LGBTQ protagonist is more or less alone, so it was nice to see that community represented.
Most of all, I think it’s fun to see movies that represent a diverse cast of characters. It is always powerful to see yourself represented in media, and even more so when you have been largely underrepresented. Whether you’re looking to see yourself or you want to expand the kind of stories you’re watching, “Fanfic” is worth a watch.
This review originally appeared in The Dominion Post on 5/27/23.