'Boy Meets Girl' follows Ricki, a young woman living in rural Kentucky, working in a coffee shop whilst she waits on hearing back from a fashion school in New York, where she wants to go to follow her dream of being a fashion designer. What sets this film apart from a lot of others is that Ricki, and Michelle Hendley who plays her, is transgender.
Ricki's life is thrown out of it's routine when she meets Francesca, a local girl whom she becomes good friends with, but starts to develop romantic feelings for. Francesca's marine fiance is dead against her friendship with Ricki, for reasons that goes beyond standard transphobia.
Whilst 'Boy Meets Girl' takes a lot of story beats and character moments from a lot of other films in the romance genre, the fact that the central protagonist is transgender adds a dimension that is not normal seen in other films.
There is a lot of discussion between the characters about sex and sexuality, whether it's characters trying to figure out if they're straight, gay or bisexual when they find themselves attracted to someone that they'd not thought they would be, to Ricki asking her best friend Robby how to go about having sex with someone who has a vagina.
The scenes where Ricki and Robby talk about sex and sexuality are some of the highlights of the film, with the interaction between the two of them filled with touching moments and laugh out loud banter that not only sell the fact that they are childhood friends, but hints at a closer intimacy between the two of them that will be important later on in the film.
The casting of Michael Welch is a great choice, with his delivery of lines, comedic timing and physicality in these scenes feeling brilliantly naturalistic. More than once when watching him during the course of the film I found myself seeing him in an almost young Nathan Fillion light.
Despite having a lot of comedy and with relationships being the key focus it's hard to just see the film as a romantic comedy, as there are some genuinely upsetting and dark moments within the narrative. The venomous transphobia that Francesca's fiance Michael uses are horrible to watch, with his character using some of the worst language possible to describe trans people. The sentiments Michael makes about Ricki, calling her a tranny, a freak, refusing to acknowledge her identity, are all things that trans people have to face in their lives, and the film doesn't shy away from showing this reality.
Dotted throughout the film are also flashes to an old video that Ricki made during her teenage years, where she talks about being trans, how she feels that her mother left because she was ashamed of her, how she's been close to suicide. Perhaps it's because I've seen these kinds of videos for real, or perhaps it's because I've felt very similar myself at times, but these scenes were more than just hard to watch, they were heartbreaking.
Despite some darker and painful moments there are moments of happiness and levity to make the journey feel worth it, with an ending that actually leaves you feeling uplifted. The cast all play their parts well, with Michael Welch stealing the show with his charm and comedic timing.
Praise has to be given over to the writer/director Eric Schaeffer for not only writing a piece that manages to capture some of the least looked at aspects of being transgender and some of the hate that members of the community face, though some of the confusion around what constitutes as gender and what constitutes as sexuality can be frustrating.
The casting of Hendley is also something that cannot be overlooked. With so many cis actors being cast in trans roles it's pleasing to see a filmmaker make the point of casting someone with actual lived trans experience in the role. It's massively important for trans representation to give trans people the chance to tell their own stories.
'Boy Meets Girl' might not be to everyone tastes, but for something that's a little different from your standard romantic comedy and something that shows a small fraction of the struggles faced by the transgender community this film is definitely worth the watch.