Movies about or featuring transgender people are relatively few and far between, so they can act as guideposts for social attitudes about the subject, often dealing with the difficult, sometimes dangerous marginalization that comes with being transgender in a society that has little tolerance for them.
There’s some of that intolerance in the trailer for About Ray (just as there’s plenty to go around in real life), but there’s also a wellspring of sympathy and understanding. Elle Fanning plays Ray, who was born in a female body, but understands that he is male. Naomi Watts is Ray’s mother, who is supportive, but clearly feeling much of the pain that Ray is experiencing. As Ray’s grandmother, Susan Sarandon is the obligatory old person who doesn’t understand the issue, asking, “Why can’t she just be a lesbian?”
Meanwhile, Tate Donovan has the thankless role of playing Ray’s estranged father, who doesn’t care enough to be a part of his son’s life but refuses to sign parental consent forms that will allow Ray to undergo reassignment surgery. The plot beats feel a bit familiar, with a trailer that suggests everybody is going to learn, laugh, and grow together. But considering how film has often characterized trans people as victims and outsiders, maybe it’s about time for a positive, slightly cliche movie about a normal kid who just happens to be in the process of transitioning genders.