A Summer Fling
Set in the summer of 2006, 17-year-old Adam (Nicholas Alexander) is spending his last summer vacation with his sister Casey (Margaret Qualley). Casey introduces him to the LGBTQ scene in New York. When he meets lesbian Gillian (India Menuez) and is smitten. Gillian assumes he is trans male and Adam never corrected her. The two begin a summer romance despite the fact that Adam is a cis male. will the truth come out about Adam and his actual cis nature or will he simply allow the lies to continue pile up?
Rhys Ernst, the director , is trans himself and he handles the film intelligently and with understanding and grace. Ernst understood Ariel Schrag’s original material and adapted it but the film is far from being what I would call a good film. It is about tolerance and acceptance but it just does not cut it as it should.
The basic premise of a cisgender male pretending to be a transgender man in order to date a lesbian just does not really work. On paper, the whole idea could honestly be considered transphobic and gross. The real reason the film works at all is because the director is trans and understand what that really means.
Adam Freeman is an awkward teenager and a senior in high school. He should be having the time of his life while enjoying those last few years of freedom before entering the real world. Instead, his parents think he’s depressed. With his best friend Brad (Colton Ryan) spending time elsewhere, Adam decides to call up his sister, Casey and suggest that he spends time with her in New York. But while quality sibling bonding time is great, she’s a lesbian and the two of them don’t exactly hang out with the same crowd. Despite this, Adam decides to make the best of it. If he can meet a girl, he thinks, the trip will be completely worth it.
Casey is a lesbian activist who goes to bars and rallies for marriage equality. She has such an interesting love life, living with June (Chloë Levine) (who has an unrequited crush on Casey), while first dating Boy Casey (Maxton Miles Baeza), a transgender man, and also pursuing Hazel (Dana Aliya Levinson), a transgender woman.
The plot of the comedy kicks off at a marriage equality march where Adam spots Gillian (Bobbi Salvör Menuez) across the way and goes against common sense logic. Rather than just forgetting her, he decides to make a move the next time he sees her in the hope that she might be bisexual.
Before long, Adam finds himself at a party that Casey has followed Hazel to. Gillian is there and Adam decides to approach her by spilling a drink on her. When Gillian makes the assumption that Adam is a trans man, he doesn’t correct her.
There’s a definite argument here about the transphobic stunt Adam pulls. At the same time, he learns what it means to be trans and is able to call out Brad for misgendering a trans woman and not truly understanding transgender issues when a trans woman is murdered.
There is a lot of LGBTQ talent in this cast and we see that a lot of care went into the film, and even though Ariel Schrag isn’t trans herself, her script (based on her own book of the same name) is knowledgeable enough that the major issues are treated with sensitivity.
“Adam” is one of those films that works as a learning lesson and a conversation starter for transgender issues. Schrag’s original novel was met with controversy–especially amongst the trans community–and while some of the more contentious aspects have been softened for the adaptation, it wouldn’t be surprising if the film inspires similar disputes. While Adam seems almost like a rite of passage before we get more complex trans dramas in mainstream filmmaking, it missed opportunities. In Adam’s struggle to fit in and have his first romantic relationship, he may be exploiting those he’s befriended, but the film itself clearly extends a sympathetic invitation to go inside the humor and hardship of this community.