‘Anything’s Possible’: Romance isn’t easy when you’re a teen and you’re trans
Billy Porter directs a high school love story that’s sweet if not all that challenging.
Actor-singer Billy Porter, in his debut as a director, keeps the stakes surprisingly low in “Anything’s Possible.”
The film, about a trans girl’s senior year as she navigates her life and first love, is agreeably light — too much so at times. There are some conflicts built into the story, but rarely do we believe that things won’t work out. It’s an optimistic approach, and it’s a good movie. But it’s not as challenging as it might have been, and thus not as satisfying.
As Kelsa (Eva Reign) begins her last year of high school, she is out as trans, comfortable with her decision and supported by her mother (Renée Elise Goldsberry) and her best friends, Em (Courtnee Carter) and Chris (Kelly Lamor Wilson). She has dreams of college in Los Angeles or New York — places where no one knows her, she says, which hints at some difficulty transitioning, perhaps.
Prime Video and Orion Pictures present a film directed by Billy Porter and written by Ximena García Lecuona. Rated PG-13 (for strong language, thematic material, sexual material and brief teen drinking). Running time: 96 minutes. Available Friday on Prime Video.
Kelsa wants to be treated simply as Kelsa. Not as trans Kelsa, not as brave Kelsa, not as anything other than Kelsa, the high-school senior. She and her mother have what they call the law of averages: Her mom can’t ask anything about her life that the average mom wouldn’t ask her average daughter.
It’s no spoiler to say that this will be put to the test. But before that happens, Kelsa talks, on the videos she records without her mom’s knowledge, about how she doesn’t know about having a boyfriend in high school. How would it work? Who would it be? Typical stuff, but she wonders how being trans might complicate things.
Khal (Abubakr Ali), a boy in her art class, develops a crush on her. He’s online all the time as well, and talks about liking Kelsa, knowing she is trans and being fine with it, but wondering if dating her would cause a lot of drama.
In a nod to typical high-school romances, Kelsa’s friend Em likes Khal and believes he likes her; of course, she’s missed the mark. When Khal gives flowers to Kelsa, it sets up the drama he had concerns about — just not in the way he anticipated.
Em won’t have anything to do with Kelsa, turning her back completely on her, and then worse. Khal’s best friend makes transphobic comments about Kelsa and cuts Khal out of his life.
But all that takes a backseat to the budding romance between Kelsa and Khal, which is sweet and patient. Porter and screenwriter Ximena García Lecuona allow things to develop over time.
When they’re finally making out and it looks as if things might go a step further, Khal asks Kelsa what she wants. She doesn’t know, she says. Is that OK?
It is. Khal is a model boyfriend, Kelsa the model girlfriend; left to their own devices it seems as if their lives would work out seamlessly perfect. But don’t all romances start that way?
One of Kelsa’s frequent pleas to her mother, Khal and her friends is that she doesn’t need help. She just needs to be.
But really, everyone needs help sometimes.
Kelsa and Khal’s former friends create some trouble, but it’s resolved pretty handily. Their concern over a long-term future together strikes a truer note. Kelsa is determined to get out of town (Pittsburgh being the town). Khal wants to stay.
What prevents the sunniest takes on weighty issues from coming off like an after-school special are the performances. Reign fully commands scenes as Kelsa, imparting her confidence, even when at times it may be faulty. And Ali, with a shrug and a smile, makes what should be an impossibly perfect character believable.
Certainly “Anything’s Possible” is a welcome unique entry into the high-school romance genre, with representation playing an important part. It’s not as deep or as deeply felt as it might have been, but at least it’s a start.