Title: Little Miss Westie
Director: Joy E. Reed and Dan Hunt
Starring: Ren McCarthy, Luca McCarthy, Shelley Stoehr-McCarthy
Runtime: 1 hr 15 min
What It Is: With a focus on the upcoming Litte Miss Westie pageant, siblings Ren and Luca take us on their journey of living life as transgender children. Ren is a pre-teen transgirl who is eager to participate in a competition where she can be herself and big brother Luca (transboy) is there to help her every step of the way.
What We Think: The documentary showcases transgenderness on a more scaled down level than many of us are used to. There is often a big theatrical media frenzy surrounding the stories we’ve heard about transgender children such as the TV series I am Jazz or the film Growing Up Coy (2016). This story focuses on their current lives and dwells less on the journey it took for them to get where they are now. It’s an important story and it shows there is no one way to growing up transgender.
A film about transgender children is going to challenge our ideas on gender identity regardless of the film’s focus. This film is fairly short, but even then it felt less like a documentary and more like a profile piece. The film lacks a compelling dramatic arch, which is great in the lives of the McCarthy’s but makes the film less engaging for the viewers. Overall, it was a bit mundane.
One focus in the film that was particularly interesting was the notion that younger sister Ren must be copying or being influenced by older brother Luca because having two transgender children seems out of the ordinary. The directors do a great job giving each of the children a platform for them to express their individual opinions and feelings on. It only further exemplifies no two stories are alike. At another point in the film, their mother brings up a good point regarding whether or not everything in their lives is going to be about gender. That really solidified for me why this film would have been better-being part of a series than a standalone production. It would have continued to challenge our ideas on gender but also normalize that not every moment and not every story is so rooted in challenging the status quo.
Our Grade: B-, Had the film been structured or paced differently it could have been more engaging. This film is an experience unique to the McCarthy’s but becomes an important piece in the continued fight for basic human rights for transgender people and their families.