Writers and Directors: Frances Elliott and Samantha Marlowe
Following Elle Walsh and partner Lauren Black over four years, the 75-minute Girl Like You screening at the Raindance Film Festival 2021, explores the complicated process of transitioning and its effect on the couple’s relationship. While Elle always knew she was in the wrong body, officially changing gender identity takes a physical and emotional toll on all those close to Elle.
Frances Elliott and Samantha Marlowe’s documentary asks shrewd questions of its subjects and while you never see the filmmakers, how the lead-up to and consequences of Elle’s decision to transition impacts on everyone around her is one of Girl Like You’s strongest elements, capturing not just the biological changes and hope that Elle find peace in her changed body, but also highlighting the mundanity and day-to-day frustrations for friends and family.
A bandmate from Elle’s group complains that she talks of nothing else and he cannot discuss the transition any more while the incredible toll it takes on the supportive Lauren over many years is sad to watch as she feels consumed by Elle’s needs, worries about her mental health as the hormone replacement therapy provokes suicidal thoughts and Lauren reaches a compassion fatigue breaking point on several occasions with little attention left to focus on herself.
But Elliott and Marlowe give equal weight to Elle’s perspective as she struggles to take the first step and fears making the wrong decision. The highs that accompany watching her body change and starting to feel like herself are matched by the relentless effect of other people’s reactions that create even greater feelings of displacement. Girl Like You is often raw, almost intrusive at times but strikingly honest in exploring the shifting reactions and self-doubt over several years.
With Elle and Lauren struggling as individuals and as a couple, the film also explores the complex reflections the couple have on their sexuality; Lauren who initially identified as heterosexual finds herself in a relationship with a woman while soon Elle who retains an attraction to women identifies as gay and wants the freedom to explore dating as a women. The effect of questions the pair hadn’t considered at the beginning of the film is sometimes hard to watch but it is a valuable conversation for the film to capture.
That the subjects occasionally resent the presence of the filmmakers shows just how unfiltered Girl Like You is and while there are areas that are covered too briefly, including individuals who chose to detransition, the consuming pressure felt by Elle and Lauren is very affecting and while ultimately hopeful, the road to being the person Elle needs to be is a hard and rocky one.
Girl Like You is screening at the Raindance Film Festival via Curzon Home Cinema until 5 November.