High school is a hellscape for most people, but for trans teens, every day can feel like a warzone. Their identities and existences are often left up for public discourse, their livelihoods are used as bargaining chips in political decision-making, and in plenty of parts of the world, blatant bigotry and violence are not only excused, but encouraged. Hollywood has a historically terrible track record in the way in which trans people have been portrayed, where graphic depictions of trans trauma have monumentally outweighed the beauty and brilliance of trans joy. In Billy Porter’s directorial debut, “Anything’s Possible,” trans girls are finally given a coming-of-age movie that sees them in the spotlight. Written by Ximena García Lecuona, “Anything’s Possible” centers on Kelsa (Eva Reign), an openly trans high school senior trying to figure out where she’s going after high school, and how she’s going to navigate the supposed milestones of growing up.
Teen movies often center on young people trying to figure out who they are, but Kelsa’s already been there and done that on an extremely public level. The “Who am I?” question has not only been answered, but clinically prescribed and documented. Kelsa knows who she is, the problem is that she doesn’t know what she wants and more importantly, doesn’t put much stock into the idea of someone wanting her. Kelsa is very in tune with the ways her transness makes her high school experience different from her friends Chris (Kelly Lamor Wilson) and Em (Courtnee Carter), which only complicates things further when Em and Kelsa both crush on Khal (Abubakr Ali) who is revealed to reciprocate Kelsa’s feelings.
There’s no textbook for this
Billy Porter and Ximena García Lecuona must be hailed for the tone of “Anything’s Possible” above all else, managing to deliver a film that feels as fantastically relatable as any teen movie from 1999, without pretending like Kelsa’s transness doesn’t complicate things. High school is a nightmare, kids can be cruel, and never once do they pretend like everyone in the senior class magically affirms Kelsa and Khal’s relationship. Khal’s best friend accuses him of “being gay” (as do Khal’s parents) and constantly misgenders Kelsa. Also, a heartbroken Em betrays her by claiming an innocent accident in the locker room that led to a broken finger was “assault,” as a means of ensuring Kelsa can no longer use the women’s facilities. Targeted trans harassment isn’t just teen movie dramatics like pouring a drink on someone at a party, it’s a hate crime, and “Anything’s Possible” is bold enough to acknowledge the difference.
The unique specificity of a teenage trans romance is highlighted in very cute ways as well, with Khal turning to forums on Reddit for advice on how to ask Kelsa out on a date, which was based on the number of wholesome, viral Reddit threads asking the very same question. There’s no textbook or teen movie for Kelsa and Khal to model after, and instead, they have to figure out how to make their feelings for each other work as they go. Khal is a relatively shy kid who knows being with Kelsa will immediately put a lot of attention on him, but he pursues her anyway because he refuses to deny his feelings.
Despite the film’s willingness to address the ways Kelsa’s transness does make her high school experience differ from her cis classmates, “Anything’s Possible” is painfully saccharine. “Hamilton” star Renée Elise Goldsberry plays Kelsa’s supportive mother with such ferocious empathy, legions of young LGBTQIA+ will surely be requesting she adopt them. The film doesn’t have the bite of the John Hughes era or the post “Mean Girls” wave of teen films, falling instead in line with feel-good films like “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” or “Love, Simon.” This will surely turn some people off who prefer their teen fare to be a little more “Euphoria” and a little-less Disney Channel Original Movie, but considering that harrowing and depressing stories of trans people being miserable or butts of the joke are the rule and not the exception, there’s something refreshing about the radical sweetness of “Anything’s Possible.”
“Anything’s Possible” succeeds not just because there’s not much else like it (outside of the Brazilian Netflix film “Alice Júnior”), but because you can’t help but root for Kelsa and Khal. The two show such an honest vulnerability at the difficulties of dating in high school, adding to the fact that they are both people of color, and in a cis/trans relationship. They have honest conversations despite sometimes being garden variety bad teenage communicators, and check each other when making bad faith assumptions. There’s a responsibility to the two of them not often shown in teen movies, likely because there’s a lot more at stake for them than your average teen.
A welcome edition to the teen girl movie canon
“Anything’s Possible” perfectly captures the idealized fantasy of teen movies without ever insulting the intelligence of its audience, and finally gives us a feisty, relatable, and lovable trans girl to add to the teen girl movie canon of greats. Porter effortlessly presents an assured debut, finding the perfect balance of bubbly, youthful pacing without sacrificing the importance of taking the time and slowing down when it matters most. Set in Porter’s hometown of Pittsburgh, it’s also worth noting how frequently Kelsa and Khal’s love is illuminated against the backdrop of some of Pittsburgh’s most beautiful landmarks.
On a personal note, as a cis woman married to a trans woman, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen a relationship like mine represented on screen without it ending in tragedy. It is such a painfully scary time to be queer or trans in this country, and being given the escapism of seeing a young trans girl thriving in love with her cis partner was emotionally overwhelming. Couples like Kelsa and Khal are a reminder of what we’re all fighting for, and the future we wish to see. After all, anything is possible.
/Film Rating: 8 out of 10
“Anything’s Possible” will be available on Prime Video beginning July 22, 2022.