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Birthday Boy (2021) Short Film Review


Directed by: #LeoLebeau

Written by: #JamesBell, #LeoLebeau


A transgender boy is severely bullied by his classmates at an all-girls school and he secretly celebrates his sixteenth birthday in his safe haven of online games.

Birthday Boy (2021) is a short drama directed by National Film and Television School graduate Leo Lebeau and will premier with Iris Prize in October, as well as scheduled for the Norwich Film Festival taking place in November. The film presents a touching, yet hard-hitting watch which celebrates the LGBTQ+ community with a refreshing narrative that does not focus on the protagonist’s transition between gender identities.

The film is very well shot and composed, with an engrossing dynamic pivoting first shot introducing us to Alex (Emmerson) as he is bullied by a group of girls as he arrives at school, the camera circling around in a smooth fashion. The cinematography creates an immersive, intimate environment where we closely follow Alex as he openly expresses himself through his gaming and is constantly bullied during classes.

Alex, a transgender boy, dressed in school uniform with a skirt is goggled at by fellow classmates
Birthday Boy (2021) short film poster

There is a tender compassion to the way in which Lebeau directs the film, where no plot point is rushed and the narrative unfolds in a thoroughly satisfying way. We see how isolated and lonely Alex is, as his parents have accepted his identity, but his scholarship at the school means his mother insists he still attends, despite the very obvious fact that he cannot identify with his peers.

The bullying soon takes a violent turn in the girls’ toilets, with a particularly tough sequence making for hard viewing, but necessary in emphasising the awful abuse trans people can be subjected to. The short does have a largely bleak tone as it honestly depicts the hardships Alex faces in his daily life, but the silver lining is his online friend who is revealed at the end. The film is ultimately about positively representing the LGBTQ+ community and encourages viewers to be more open minded and accepting.

Sebastian Emmerson gives a truthful, sympathetic performance as Alex and the scene in the girls’ toilets really showcases his talents. Selma Alkaff also makes for an effective antagonist as the lead bully, Elle-Louise, who steals Alex’s sketchpad. Ted Reilly as Henry plays a sweet supportive character, who eventually forms a friendship with Alex by the end.

Birthday Boy is an impactful short with enticing direction, strong cast and important message at its heart – highly recommended!


Birthday Boy (2021) trailer:


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