Ray (Elle Fanning) is fighting to get the hormones he needs to transition. His mother Maggie (Naomi Watts) supports him as best she can, even when she does struggle herself sometimes with his being trans. They live together with Ray’s lesbian grandmother Dolly (Susan Sarandon) who tries to help, too, but doesn’t really understand what Ray is going through. They do not live with Ray’s father Craig (Tate Donovan) who has a new family and not much interest in Ray. But Craig needs to agree to Ray’s treatment, so Maggie and Ray have to convince him.
I knew going in that About Ray – retitled 3 Generations – wouldn’t be an unproblematic film about being trans, but I wanted to give it a try anyway. What I got was okay, but definitely not great.
That About Ray wouldn’t be all that good with being trans was already obvious by their casting decision to choose Elle Fanning to play Ray. Fanning herself is great – she really is one of the most promising, young actresses working at the moment – but the role should have gone to a trans boy and not a cis girl. And that’s just a fact.
The rest of the film really tries very hard to be sensitive of being trans, but unfortunately from an outdated point of view. I doubt that Dellal or Beckwith included a lot of trans people when they made the film as they would have certainly pointed out a few things that are just not good anymore about the script. But at least they tried and didn’t completely butcher the issue (like The Danish Girl).
I can also understand that they retitled the film to “3 Generations”. I still saw it as About Ray and one of the notes I made was that the film is surprisingly little about Ray, given the title. It focuses much more on Maggie, and the new title definitely does it more justice.
The film does have its moments but I do wonder how much better it could have been if it had been made by trans people. It’s okay right now, but there would have been potential for more.