Coming-of-age stories never seem to get old. With directors like Trevor Anderson constantly trying new approaches to the genre, we get fresh new media that never fails to catch our attention.
“Before I Change My Mind” tells the story of Robin (Vaughn Murrae), a teen who recently moved to Alberta, Canada. There Robin enrolls in a new high and the question on every classmate’s mind: “Are they a boy or a girl?” As Robin does their best to try and fit in, they end up befriending the wrong person, shifting the question to “What kind of person are you going to be?”
The world that Trevor Anderson has built within this film supports this very shift, breaking down our predisposed notions about gender and gender identity. In the opening scene when Robin walks in on a sex ed course, the gym teacher remarks with a long pause, “You’re a … ‘Merican.” In that pause, seeing the class split into boys and girls, the audience expects a gender reveal that will never come. Robin walks down the middle of the two groups and sits right in the middle.
These subtle cues of an unrevealed gender identity force us to look at other aspects of Robin’s character, like their personality and how they interact with other characters. Slowly, Robin befriends the school bully, Carter (Dominic Lippa), and does increasingly dangerous things in order to maintain this friendship. Backed by intense synths and amazing cinematography, “Before I Change My Mind” does a great job of portraying the emotional and complex relationship the pair has.
One of my favorite aspects about this film is the depth of its characters.
Each character is unique and can star in their own film. For instance, Tony (Jhztyn Contado) is a Filipino boy who only has a few lines in the entire movie; He’s there to play the role of one of the victims to Carter’s brutal bullying. Still, we know that he helps his family run a Chinese restaurant and that he loves punk rock. The characters are real and loveable, they pull you right into their world.
However, “Before I Change My Mind” being a debut feature film means that Anderson can’t get everything right. While I love the subtle details in the wardrobes, hints in the script and sly camera pans, the youth’s acting can be noticeable. Unlike shows such as “Euphoria” where grown adults have roles as teenagers, Anderson commits to having actors play their age group. The downside of this is having flatly delivered lines and expressions that don’t match the line being delivered. But, the importance and poignancy of the overall message mask my only critique.
In a world ruled by toxic masculinity and our obsession with labels and the binary, this film is subversive at every angle. The audience is never informed about Robin’s gender nor the full extent of Robin and Carter’s relationship. Anderson instead begs the question of why it even matters at all. Our human experience cannot be wrapped up in a single word, so why should our identities?
This film is queer at every moment without making it the highlight of the film. You can say everything without needing to say anything, and this is exactly what “Before I Change My Mind” does.
If you’re looking for a new movie to fall in love with, then here you are. “Before I Change My Mind” is a strong film about growing adolescents and the experiences that shape their personalities. It’s a journey everyone can connect to and remember the good, the bad and the questionable choices they’ve made to fit in.
“Before I Change My Mind”” is part of the Frameline 47 Film Festival from June 14 to 24 in the Bay Area. The internationally acclaimed festival features 100+ queer films, which will also be available to stream June 24 to July 2.
Knives Nguyen, (he/them/theirs) is a journalist from the Bay Area who covers entertainment and culture. You can connect with them on LinkedIn: @knivesnguyen.
Edited by Nykeya Woods