3 Generations stars Elle Fanning as “Ray” a transgender teen. A good film is almost ruined by a “Hallmark Channel” ending. In real life, people don’t reconcile, prejudices run deep and every problem does not have a solution. On the Hallmark Channel, of course, every complex issue can be resolved within a two hour show. We expected more from a a film tacking the controversial issue of transgender teens
However, despite these flaws, 3 Generations is worth seeing simply for the superb acting of every cast member. Even though Ray is part of a very progressive New York City family, Ray’s decision to physically become male puts tremendous stress on the 3 generations of her family living in 1 apartment.
Elle Fanning gives a masterful performance as Ramona, who never felt comfortable in the body of a girl. Very early in childhood she insisted on being “Ray”, – dressing & behaving as a boy. Now at age 16 she wants to complete the transition with hormone treatments and surgery, to become truly male.
Of course, at age 16 she needs parental consent. This causes anguish for Ray’s mother Maggie (Naomi Watts) Maggie wrestles with what the right decision should be. The pressures on Maggie are made even greater by the fact that she and Ray live with Ray’s grandmother Dolly (Susan Sarandon). Despite being a lesbian herself, Dolly completely rejects the concept of a transgender teen. Dolly also feels it is necessary to express her opinions as often as possible.
Just when Ray thinks the situation cannot become any more complex, there is a new issue. Even if Maggie does consent for the procedure; that will not be enough. It turns out that Ray’s father also needs to approve, even though he has not been around for many years. Ray decides to search out her father and confront him with the fact that “his little girl” is not who he thought.
Throughout her career Elle Fanning has always played a very feminine “girly-girl”. Recently she was a a fashion model in Neon Demon, and a young seductress in the Civil War drama The Beguiled. Her performance as Ray demonstrates her range.
The problem with 3 Generations is that the film went in too much for “feel good” scenes and touching family moments, rather than the stark realities of family conflicts. People are just too understanding of Ray. There is 1 scene in which Ray gets beat up by a bully on the street. However, the injuries are just a black eye.
Aside from that 1 incident, everyone accepts Ramona as “Ray”. School officials, other teens doctors, and eventually all family members all have no problems with the issue. Real transgender teens will say that the world is not quite like that.
The most unbelievable part of 3 Generations is that of Ray’s father Craig (played by Tate Donovan). Without spoiling the film, let’s just say that his actions are not normal for someone who has a transgender kid they have not seen in 10 years suddenly show up.
Still, we do give 3 Generations Four Stars because the acting is superb, and it does have the courage to look at a “hot button” issue. 3 Generations does show the love that can be the part of the life of a transgender person. However, the film also should have realistically shown the hate that also exists in the world of every transgender individual.