Girl Like You: Review

Year: 2021

Runtime: 75 minutes

Directors: Samantha Marlowe, Frances Elliot

Featuring: Elle Walsh, Lauren Black

By Caz Armstrong

This honest documentary is an open discussion about gender transition, and the impact it has on a person’s wider relationships. Filmed over 6 years, we’re given an insight into the evolving nature of this difficult journey.

“Girl Like You”

Elloise (Elle) is a drummer and a trans woman. She was already in a relationship with her cis straight partner Lauren when she came out as trans. Over the years that followed the pair contend with some complex issues that strain the relationship to breaking point. 

Filmmakers Marlowe and Elliot take care to explore the incredibly difficult decisions and emotional rollercoaster that Elle faces but also the wider ripple effects. Giving weight to other people’s emotions without detracting from the one person who is going through the most is a fine line to tread but it is done well here. 

“Girl Like You”

When we learn that 93% of relationships fail when one person comes out as trans, we may instantly think that the cis person just abandons their partner, which may be the case for a number of them. But since filming took place over a number of years we’re able to delve much more deeply into this complex situation, at least for this relationship.

The filmmakers have taken great care to explore multiple angles with sensitivity, and the raw honesty with which all of the subjects speak helps the audience to grapple with aspects they may not have even considered. 

Elle’s partner Lauren is straight. She still loves Elle and doesn’t want to leave her but has to do some deep analysis of her own sexuality as well as recognising her own gender biases and comprehension of the trans experience. The person she loves is changing physically and mentally. Their sex life is affected. Lauren wants the very best for Elle and doesn’t want to hold her back, but she also needs to contend with her own expectations and goals.

Lauren also takes on a financially and emotionally supportive role which sadly leaves her drained and feeling empty. Similar to a lot of relationships in which one partner needs a lot of support, it’s not Elle’s fault, but nonetheless the burden on Lauren is considerable and compassion fatigue is real.

“I’m dead inside”
“Welcome to the club”

Elle’s mother has to do some reckoning herself, coming to terms with the ‘loss’ of the child she knew in order to accept this ‘new’ one. This recognises a supportive parent’s mixed feelings of grief and joy when a child transitions gender.

The filmmakers have tried to listen without judgement and encourage us to see just how complicated this kind of situation can be. 

But, quite rightly, nothing is given more weight than Elle’s transition and we get an insight into just how scary, frustrating, and liberating this is for her. At a time where trans people are especially persecuted, it’s vital that audiences are able to see trans people’s stories for themselves.

Every decision Elle faces comes with a mind-boggling array of consequences. Each medication has potential side effects and Elle must do her own research to distinguish between fact and myth. Every new step of the process has risks but brings her closer to feeling like her true self. She just wants to feel comfortable in her own body and not be gawped at in the street. It’s really not too much to ask. But the journey to get there is long and emotional.

“Welcome to the lowest part of my life ever. We’re in it right now”

This level of insight into what Elle is going through and the choices she faces helps to educate audiences. Hopefully people will come away with a better understanding and more empathy as a result of seeing this film.

This insightful documentary deals with some complicated issues and emotions. It brings the audience on a journey through identity, relationships, the burden of support and the freedom of being yourself. It offers a window into the lives of some of the most marginalised and misunderstood people and it does so with dignity. 


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