Landing on Netflix today is the Polish LGBTQ+ teen drama, Fanfic (aka Fanfik). The movie – directed by Marta Karwowska – is based on a novel by Natalia Osinska, and stars Alin Szewczyk and Jan Cieciara.
In the film, Tośka is a teenager in the final year of high school. When she’s not attending lessons, Tosia can usually be found hunched over her laptop, writing fictional stories.
As a general rule, Tośka keeps herself-to-herself, and like every teenager she doesn’t like to speak about her feelings. However, she does have regular sessions with a therapist, due to ongoing mental health issues, low self-esteem, and incidents of self-harm.
One night, Tośka is invited to a party, but when she arrives at the event, she is wet from the rain. Her friend Leon suggests she change out of her damp outfit and into some of his clothes and soon Tośka is throwing on items from Leon’s wardrobe.
Within moments of putting on Leon’s clothes, Tośka feels a weight lifted off her shoulders. She looks in a mirror, and instead of seeing herself as a girl, Tośka begins to see a boy.
From this moment onward, Tośka begins to identity as male and starts to become the person he was always meant to be. He cuts his hair, dresses differently, and starts to embrace a new, happier way of thinking.
Tośka also begins to develop a romantic relationship with gay friend, Leon. However, he soon finds out the course of love doesn’t run smoothly, nor does identifying as a different gender when you’re at high school.
When I first started watching Fanfic, I must admit I struggled with the movie to begin with. Something about the first twenty minutes just didn’t grab me, and I wasn’t sure where it was headed or whether my interest would hold up.
But then, right around the time Tośka started to figure out his identity, the movie really clicked for me. The initial build-up, which seemed to suggest this film was a quirky comedy soon evaporated and what remained was something more insightful, touching, and far more likeable.
The scenes in which Tośka sees his true self are perfectly handled, and everything else that follows slots into place effortlessly. What starts off as something seemingly disposable, soon transforms into a picture with depth and something to say, and it all flows from one scene to the next with a great deal of charm.
As a flag-waving member of the LGBTQ+ community, there are aspects of the movie which struck a chord with me, including a few lines of dialogue about why it took Tośka 17 years to come out. However, there are also parts of the story which helped expand my knowledge of the trans journey, which offer a new perspective on LGBTQ+ issues outside of my own experiences.
As such, I found this film really enjoyable to watch, but useful too. It is a coming out story, which leans into conversations about the trans community, but it is also a teen love story between two people who gravitate towards each other. This isn’t just a film about finding out who you are, it is also about finding someone who sees the real you. This is the message at the crux of this film, and it is a delightful one.
I may have started off unsure about Fanfic, but I soon warmed to the movie, and then I grew to like it very much. Fanfic has some important things to say about identity and about belonging, irrespective of gender, sexuality, or discrimination, and it is never preachy or heavy handed.
What you get with this picture is a simple tale, which gets to the heart of being trans. This is a picture about people just wanting to be who they are, and nothing more, and that’s all that ever needs to be said.
Thank you for taking the time to read this review on It’s A Stampede!. For more reviews, check out the recommended reads below.
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