Molly McGlynn’s compelling sophomore finds an irresistible way to approach often-controversial terrain when a high school student discovers she has a birth defect that complicates her sexual identity.
Who am I? Where do I fit in? Am I somehow inappropriate? Will I ever be an ex-virgin? Such questions will surely arise for every young person at some point. But only about one in every 5,000 women comes to them for the same diagnostic reason as the heroine of the movie “Bloody Hell”. Molly McGlynn’s second feature focuses on a 16-year-old girl’s anguish upon discovering that she has a rare congenital disorder that greatly complicates her nascent sex life, emerging sexual identity, and indeed her basic sexual pipeline. This Canadian serio-comedy, which premiered at SXSW, is a little less focused and effective than the writer-director’s previous “Mary Goes Round,” but it’s still accomplished and makes a similarly comparable protagonist with a sometimes self-destructive behavior with plenty of problems. his plate.
Lindy (Maddie Ziegler) is a newcomer to the suburbs of Sudbury, Ontario, and her mother is Rita (Emily Hampshire), a therapist who is still working to get her life back on track years after the girl’s father abandoned them. In contrast, adjusting to an unfamiliar high school seems to be going quite well for Lindy, who immediately makes a best friend in raitait member Vivian (Djouliet Amara). She also develops a crush on her classmate Adam (D’Faraoh Woon-A-Tai), and the feeling seems to be mutual.
The excited anticipation leads Lindy to the point where she goes to the gynecologist for birth control pills. But since she hasn’t started her period yet, she gets a routine check-up. This gets her referred to a specialist, who rather callously delivers news that’s hard to digest: She has Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuster-Hauser syndrome, a condition that begins in the fetal stage. In Lindy’s particular case, that means she was born without a uterus, cervix, or most of the vaginal canal; she never menstruates or is unable to bear a child; and he will find that it is “virtually impossible to have sex without manual or surgical assistance.” The only immediate, partial solution is offered in the form of plastic dilators, which she needs to exercise daily because (as a more encouraging female doctor puts it) “the vagina is an amazing muscle and … you just have to stretch it.”
This discovery of an intimate anatomical “difference” makes our heroine feel ashamed and strange. She vehemently rejects the mother’s attempts at support and absolutely refuses to discuss this crisis with anyone else. Nevertheless, his friends are sure to sense that something is amiss, not least Adam, who can only interpret his sudden retreat from physicality as personal rejection. Trying to figure out where she fits in now, Lindy attends – then runs away from – an after-school meeting of LGBTQ students. He also develops a potentially flirtatious friendship with Vivian’s androgynous friend Jax (Ki Griffin), who identifies as “intersex” due to his own anatomical birth defects.
Almost everyone close to her is sympathetically worried about Lindy’s suddenly mercurial, mysterious behavior. But he’s unable to trust anyone, which leads to reckless behavior—ultimately a drugged-out drunk on a near-stranger, making his situation truly public, inviting ridicule from far less empathetic peers.
Until late, “Bloody Hell” refrains from being on the soapbox and offers a fair amount of information about MRKH and related matters as part of the central protagonist’s self-education. Even the burst of humor (especially the climactic “big speech” aimed at all the bullies) works well enough dramatically. And Lindy’s often impulsive, reckless behavior makes sense for her age—never mind that these attempts at survival often make things worse, or that more mature viewers might wonder why she doesn’t simply tell those closest to her what she’s keeping from them. .
Even so, McGlynn’s script feels convoluted at times, crammed with too many ideas, losing narrative steam when too much time — and/or not enough — is devoted to Hampshire’s mother. The cast (simultaneously in another SXSW premiere, “Appendage”) is good as usual. But Rita has issues of her own, and they’re not developed well enough to seem like more than unnecessary, occasional distractions from the central character’s sufficiently complex predicament. In contrast, “Mary Goes Round” dealt with alcoholism, dysfunctional family dynamics and more in a way that balanced humor and seriousness more evenly, in just 86 short minutes.
The young actors are all attractive and convincing, even if they look a little toothy for their characters’ alleged ages. Aesthetically, the film repeats a step forward from the director’s previous film, and Nina Djacic’s widescreen cinematography and Thea Hollatz’s production design (especially for the main characters’ bedrooms) provide a handsome look. There’s also a busy soundtrack, although some of the cuts used by different artists are more welcome than others.
While imperfect, “Bloody Hell” provides entertaining food for thought through an important general, non-preachy point: there is indeed room in nature for gender and sexual norms to vary, no matter how vociferously political or religious conservatives today argue otherwise. .