feature films

Sparkle and Shine

A film by Rhonda Buckley

It’s 2010, Avery’s family is raised by a single mother (RUTH, 42), who works hard as a nurse and raises four girls LORI (17), SUE (16), JILL (15), and AVERY (10). Their mother is obsessed with pragmatic details, responsibility, and the girls not coming home pregnant. To the daughters, their mother is insufferable.

But to Avery, the youngest, the bullying and savage ways of his sisters are caustic. She is called Pudge and often reminded daily she was a mistake, as she is 5 years younger. Avery can barely get by in school, compounded by her own sibling’s disdain. Most days she escapes to lie in a forest by the river to find some sense of reprieve. In school they are meant to take an elective, ballet class in the gym. Avery must wear ballet bodysuit and tights and do other ‘little girl’ rituals like own a fluorescent pink bedroom and wear berets. Avery discovers she doesn’t want to be a girl at all. She feels like and is a boy, she is he. While in a dance class, she looks to a boy Raoul and envisions his beautiful body transposed over hers. Raoul stands with perfect posture and is confident and keen to become a dancer, he is different than the other boys. Avery wonders when she will feel whole.  Raoul gets Avery through the hard times at school and helps ease the pain of the family’s constant torture. They share a bond, knowing just to get out of this small town means they will survive. 

 As Avery’s sisters move away from home, he is a boy, and Ruth supports Avery. He keeps his name, and when he gets accepted to design school in New York at 18, he attends on full scholarship and makes the transition to become a man. He falls in love with a successful businessman David, and their love and design business make them a hot and successful couple in NY.  

In NY, Avery (23) and David (30) meet Raoul (23) while at a theatre afterparty, and Avery shares with David how much Raoul’s support meant to him at such a crucial time back home when he was young. He did, in fact, save his life. Avery needs Raoul’s friendship in his life now, as well, he tells David.  

David is surprised to learn that loving and living with Avery also means his family will be involved, as David is estranged from his own family. David loves Avery’s Mom, Ruth, but he cuts off Avery’s sisters from their home who have been torturous to Avery over the years. After a sudden trip home, the sister’s Jill (28) and Sue (29), are in a car accident and Jill is killed without having made amends with Avery.

Avery returns home to attend the funeral, and after the service Raoul and Avery walk through their same neighourhood where they grew up. Avery is a man, and many do not know who he was before. Raoul, openly gay, is also dressed in drag as an eloquent woman. They walk through their community together, past shops and storekeepers. As Avery walks up to his home and goes in to see his family he says, “I’m home”. He knows he has survived his small-town life.  He knows now how to be home on his own terms.  

Sparkle and Shine is one young child’s journey through growing up to be a man, while being bullied by his family. Avery must endure a family dynamic that is poisonous, although they are seemingly supportive of trans identity. Family life brings with it sometimes the harshest conditions for a young child and persevering while living your true self can be compounded. In Avery’s case his bravery is being a man, but somehow, he also miraculously hangs on to his family ties and small hometown upbringing.  

Avery’s courage allows him to live his life and truth. Sparkle and Shine is a love story between the life Avery had to leave in order to shine in his new life, and how he was able to make both his worlds come together. It is not because of family sometimes you succeed, but despite your family you persevere.

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