A few months ago, I did a post on transgender characters in fiction, and more particularly, why most of them suck. Hoping that this was merely an artifact of the Anglophone media, last night I watched a Quebecois film called Laurence Anyways. Here’s the trailer, which, quite frankly, includes all of the scenes which you actually need to see from its three-hour run time.
As you can see, the film is about the torrid relationship between an academic named Laurence (who transitions from male to female over the course of a decade) and her on-again-off-again girlfriend, Frederique. As I was sitting there watching it, I was disturbed by the extent to which it constituted an accurate representation of my life over the past year and a half. And indeed, going through my checklist, the transgender representation is almost perfect: Laurence is neither a prostitute nor a serial killer; her relationship is tragically doomed, but ultimately it becomes apparent that this had very little to do with her transition; she is not the punchline of a joke, and she has a personality outside of being trans. And indeed, I must admit that on a few occasions, I was almost overwhelmed with emotion by seeing someone like me not being depicted in any sort a degrading fashion. So the representation in this movie is, indeed, very good, and the visuals and the score were both amazing.
However, all of this being said, I must admit that I didn’t actually like this movie very much. I say this because, honestly, I found both of the main characters to be massively unlikable people. Laurence is creepily obsessed with Frederique, almost to the point of stalking her, and is utterly indifferent to other people’s emotional needs (this is implied to be a result of her shaky relationship with her mother); Frederique, for her part, is an insufferable, moody narcissist with a temper problem. Neither is capable of getting through a conversation without turning it into an aggressive screaming match, and there were times when I just felt like shouting at the screen: “Calm the fuck down! Pour yourselves a cup of tea and discuss this like rational adults!”
What’s more, at the risk of sounding like an uncultured Anglo who’s incapable of sitting through a film that doesn’t have at least one explosion every five minutes, this movie was poorly paced to the point of being boring. The visuals were stunning, yes, but was it quite necessary to linger on them for that long? Perhaps this is just my own personal bias; it’s possible that, to someone who hasn’t just lived through it, the whole transition itself is suitably captivating; or perhaps it’s just that Romance is not a genre which has ever really appealed to me; whatever the reason, it took conscious force-of-will to restrain myself from walking out midway through.