52 Tuesdays – a great example of shape

This low budget Australian film uses the idea of weekly meetings between a teenage daughter and her divorced mother to tell a touching and compassionate story. Billy’s mother announces her determination to become a man and that she needs some space to achieve that. She arranges for Billy to live with her father. However, they promise to meet every Tuesday for the next year, no matter what. That will be their special time.

This simple concept helps tell a touching and delicate story of change; for the teenage girl it’s the complicated passage to womanhood, for the mother it’s the transition from woman to manhood, and all that that means.

The story covers only what happens on each of the 52 Tuesdays, nothing else. We never see the rest of the week, we never move to Thursday or the weekend. If it’s not Tuesday it doesn’t make it into the story. This discipline gives the story power and focus.

Without those limits the story wouldn’t work, it wouldn’t have a frame, something to stop the film drifting. Frankly it wouldn’t have a reason to exist. The shape keeps us concentrated on the two central characters and their journeys. And it does this while allowing the freedom and room to move the story from place to place as needed.

To add to that, the producers decided to shoot the film on every Tuesday for an entire year. This created a punishing weekly shooting schedule as well as an unusually long commitment for actors and crew. But what it also gave to the film was an unexpected layer of journey for the writer, actors and director in approaching their characters with fresh eyes each and every week; subtle nuances that only time can create give added definition and depth to the characters as the weeks pass.

Even though they’ve probably never heard of the concept of shape, 52 Tuesdays is a wonderful expression of it.

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