“a conversation starter rather than any form of answer”
Better explores the complex relationship between a mum and her young son as he questions his gender identity, seeing her torn between a light at the end of the tunnel offered by a private medical facility and her desire to let her son flourish as the person he is. Following last night’s screening we caught up with writer, Lucy Heath and director, Michael J Ferns, to find out how the film came about.
“At the time of writing this short film I was suffering badly with anxiety, as many of us do at some point,” explains Lucy. “One day I sat there, heart racing, palms sweating and I thought to myself, I would give all my pennies to get rid of this nauseating feeling. That thought then progressed to wondering whether other people would feel the same about other traits they don’t like in themselves.
“So I set about asking different men and women whether they would pay to alter their character in any way. I found the disparity in their answers fascinating. It revealed to me that while there is a clear beauty standard women feel extremely pressured to uphold, I had not considered how much some men feel pressured to be the ‘charming, manly man’.
While doing her research Lucy confesses to becoming “obsessed” with Ru Paul’s Drag race.
“On this TV show many of the Queens would share the struggles they faced growing up gay and liking to dress as a woman. I then wondered if they were given the choice to go back in time and surpass all of this turmoil through a simple “fix” would they? Or would they go through it all again to come out of it the other side thriving as their true selves, the way they have done?” Lucy says. “So I queried many friends and other members of the LGBT community about this subject. A large percentage of them said, without hesitation, they would go through it all again to be who they are today. However, many mentioned they would not wish it on their own children.”
This revelation lead to the discussion of whether they thought their parents would have “hetero- normalised” them, if they were given the opportunity.
“Many thought they would,” says Lucy. “And this is where the idea for Better was ignited. I set about writing the story of a young mother who was faced with the opportunity of ‘hetero-normalsing’ her son, in order to save him from his bullies.
“I was conscious not to vilify Jamie, the young mother, I wanted the audience to see how someone, particularly a mother, could be pushed to such extreme lengths that they would do anything to protect their child.”
Lucy said that she aimed to use the film to pose a question to the audience. Is conforming in order to make your life easier ultimately going to make your life ‘better’?
“Better is a love letter to anyone who wishes to be different from whom they are,” says Lucy. “to let them know that what makes them different is also their super power.”
“The subject of this film fascinates me. I view this piece as a conversation starter rather than any form of answer,” Director Michael adds. “The social politics surrounding controversial topics like gender identity are polarising at an alarming rate. This film does not take a distinct side, just like I don’t.
“It’s a subjective human story and an exploration of the complexity of which we’ve clearly lost sight. I wanted to create something humane and emotionally honest.”