Blu-ray Review: 3 Generations

By , Contributor
Originally titled About Ray when it premiered at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival, director Gaby Dellal's 3 Generations concerns a transgender teen who wants to begin transitioning from female to male. The rub? Ray (Elle Fanning) is only 15. His mother, Maggie (Naomi Watts), and father, Craig (Tate Donovan), must sign consent forms. Maggie supports her son, yet waffles when it comes to putting pen to paper. Craig, on the other hand, has been an absentee father—he started a new family years ago. News of Ray's needs frustrates and confuses him.

Most of the narrative is given over to Maggie's hemming and hawing, which means 3 Generations takes a while to get going. Only when Ray confronts Craig, after he's flat-out refused to sign the papers, do things get interesting. There is a twist (which I won't reveal), and it's an effective one. While Craig is initially presented as a dunderheaded deadbeat, the situation between he, Maggie, and Ray is revealed to be far more complex. So much so that Ray's plight actually takes somewhat of a backseat to a different issue by the time things wrap up.

The third generation referred to in the title is Maggie's mother, Dolly (Susan Sarandon). Having come out as a lesbian years before, Dolly and her partner Frances (Linda Emond) allow Maggie and Ray to live at their house. It's Dolly who represents the old school-style opposition—she's dead-set against Ray transitioning. Her uneasiness with the situation is meant to be ironic, considering her own orientation was once as "taboo" and non-mainstream as Ray's situation. Unfortunately, Dellal and her co-screenwriter Nikole Beckwith treat Dolly as comic relief. She and Frances are essentially the peanut gallery, always waiting on the sidelines with a quip. One of the film's best moments: when Maggie, en route to speak with Craig once again, ditches the two women at a gas station.

3 Generations is by no means a spectacular film, but it's a thoughtful one. The title should've remained About Ray (were they worried that folks might mistake it for another Ray Charles biopic?), because it really isn't about three different generations. It's about a young man, not accepted universally as such, determined to claim his identity no matter what his dysfunctional family thinks.

Lionsgate's Blu-ray offers six minutes of deleted scenes, some of which really belonged in the final cut. Again, 3 Generations is far from perfect. The aforementioned "twist"—which involves an additional character who should've had more screentime—could've been even more effective had the related deleted scenes been included. Still, the film is worth a look for sure.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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