The most distinctive detail about 52 Tuesdays — that it was filmed in bursts once a week over a year — is just one of this impressive debut’s many highlights.
The sixteenth year of Billie’s (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) turbulent life becomes the most trying one yet when her lesbian mother (Del Herbert-Jane) undergoes the transition from Jane to James. Needing the space and freedom to medically alter himself, James requests that Billie live with her dad (Beau Travis Williams) for a year, but that they spend every Tuesday together.
It’s during these few hours that this intimate near-masterpiece takes place, weaving James’s transition tale with Billie’s sexual coming-of-age. (The voyeuristic high schooler meets her new best friends by spying on their make-outs, and later plays director of their caresses before wedging herself between them.)
James’s exposition-heavy story can feel overly educational, but Billie’s is a heady exploration of sexual and gender expression, familial responsibilities, and adolescent friendships. Billie accepts James’s new identity completely, but can’t help resenting — or taking advantage of — her mother’s parental hiatus.
Later, she’s slow to realize that having a transgender mother is far from the worst fate she can suffer. Despite his deep reserves of kindness, James, too, is a compellingly flawed parent, making for an emotionally resonant family drama that comes to a head when a teacher discovers the naked photos on Billie’s phone. Grippingly plotted and exquisitely thoughtful, 52 Tuesdays is a poignant reminder that neither confusion nor crisis is doomed to be calamitous.