Firstness (2021) 

A non-binary kid and their father work on finding themselves and each other in the hopes of living a better, more connected life together. While the father dates, the child strikes up a friendship with a grown man that makes some people worry. 

Written and directed by Brielle Brilliant, this film is full of good intentions but something about it doesn’t quite stick the landing. While the mood and tone are welcoming for most of the story and the characters feel mostly real, something feels like its missing. The intentions are good, the writing is decent, the directing serviceable, but the film overall comes up short and it’s hard to pinpoint where exactly. The story is one that needs to get told, or rather the non-binary kid is someone people need to see more of on film to help with acceptance of that part of the population and a better understand of who they are, what their struggles are, and what that they really are just the same with hopes, ambitions, personalities, and plenty love to give. Here the character is sweet and clearly trying to understand themselves, giving the film a lot to work with, but the film feels like it stalls. Perhaps this may be due to the non-binary-ness of the lead being played up so much without really digging deep enough, or perhaps it’s the complete opposite where it should have just been an element of this child, like some have blue eyes and some have green eyes. There is something in this film that does not work for it and it’s really difficult to put into words what it is exactly. 

Playing the lead of Tavi, Spencer Jording does fantastic work with great moments of emotions and nuance that would be expected from much more experienced actors and are given here in a very natural way. Their work here is what makes the film really, bringing the viewer in even when the script is missing that little something. This is the kind of performance to look for. Playing their father is Tim Kinsella does good work, but comes off completely lost at times that don’t seem to make sense within the story. Playing the adult friend Tavi makes, the one who worries other adults, is Caleb Cabrera who great here and gives off absolutely no creepy vibes. The character is there for Tavi and Cabrera plays him as such. 

Another great element of the film is the cinematography by Ben Mullen who makes the locations feel desolate and lonely at times and a bit warmer at others, depending on what the story calls for. There is a lot of talent here and it is being used just right for the film. It’s not a particularly active story, so the calmer ways the camera moves and how it lingers on just the right stuff is something worth nothing as it elevates the film. 

Firstness is a film that deals with very real issues facing non-binary kids and the adults around them as well as other issues that can come and make life a bit hard at times. The film takes the characters and gives them plenty time to develop and evolve, but something feels like it’s missing and that drags the film down quite a bit. There is a lot here, lots of good stuff, but that seemingly missing element really looms over the film and drags it down.