At first glance, Anything’s Possible seems like any other modern rom-com with its aggressively fashionable characters (blue hair, bold patterns, teenage boys in pastels). The film revolves around the relationship between Khalid (Abubakr Ali), a shy 17-year-old cisgender boy, and Kelsa (Eva Reign), a transgender girl in his art class. They realise that even their own friends were not fully comfortable with Kelsa’s gender identity when Khalid asks her out.
Like most feel-good teen films, Anything’s Possible only superficially explores the issues faced by its protagonists before returning to its manicured, sunny center of gravity. After Kelsa fights with her friend, Em, in the girl’s bathroom, Em lies to the school principal that she was physically hurt because of Kelsa’s ‘socialised male energy’. The school resolves the issue by making Kelsa use a gender neutral bathroom, an abandoned toilet that hasn’t been cleaned in years. However, right after this happens, her classmates rally behind her and Em apologizes and admits her lie to the principal. Similarly, Khalid’s parents, stereotypical immigrants whose only lines throughout the film were to encourage their son to study Economics at University, magically come around at the end of the film when he decides to pursue design at a local college.
At times the film’s ideas about Gen-Z and its dependence on the digital world is grating, like when the film shows text messages on screen to move the plot along or when our first introduction to Khalid’s crush on Kelsa is that he watches her on TikTok. However, it’s also used cleverly at times. Khalid pouring his heart out anonymously on Reddit and helping other users with their relationship problems was hilarious and felt original. Clips of Kelsa using her personal YouTube channel to talk about her love of animals, her experiences on hormone blockers or vent about dating as a trans girl helps contextualise her character.
Though Kelsa’s glad that her classmates support her, she does not want to be made the center of attention. When her mother nudges her to write about her experience transitioning and the bravery it took in her admission essays for college, Kelsa says, “I don’t want to get in just because I’m trans”. In her relationship with Khalid, she does not want him to feel like he has to protect her. The two depict the endearing awkwardness of teenage romance well in their scenes together and their relationship shows seems to transcend a world that is obsessed with gender norms.
When it comes to the representation of transgender people, many films' casting decisions reflect an unwillingness to understand the trans community. Jared Leto won an Academy Award for his portrayal of the drug-addled prostitute Rayon in Dallas Buyers’ Club (2013) and the Oscar-nominated The Danish Girl (2015) and Girl (2018), Caméra d'Or winner at Cannes, also cast cis men to portray trans women. Transgender actors should be cast not just because they are underrepresented, but also because working with transgender artists would influence writers and directors to go beyond reductive stereotypes in future projects. Films like Anything's Possible and series like Euphoria have ushered in an era of more authentic representation where trans people are being cast to play trans characters and the characters have a storyline that focusses on their life after transitioning.
While Anything’s Possible suffers from the same pitfalls that most teen rom coms do, with its barely developed side characters and cliched ending, it may pave the way for films that give transgender people the space to be themselves.
Anything’s Possible is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.