Kelsa, the protagonist of Billy Porter’s sweet and blazing film directorial debut Anything’s Possible, doesn’t want you to call her brave. As a Black trans girl growing up in Pittsburgh, she’s heard the adjective one too many times.
There’s indeed more to this charismatic and self-possessed high school senior, played by the magnetic Eva Reign. She loves fashion — her wardrobe (kusos to Pose alum Analucia McGorty’s costume designs) pops with bejeweled accessories, mini-skirts, funky shoes and colorful blouses. She has a YouTube vlog, where she details her transition, talks about growing up in Pittsburgh and waxes poetic about school, her mom and friendship.
The Bottom Line
A delightful expansion of the rom-com genre.
But above all else, Kelsa adores animals. The film opens with the teen explaining her fondness for creatures whose names reflect their unique traits. The Pink fairy armadillo, the blue-footed booby, Scaptia beyonceae (or the Beyonce fly) and the Blobfish are a few of her favorites: “What makes them unique,”she says excitedly to the camera, “is also what helps them survive.”
For Kelsa, survival is only part of the equation. Anything’s Possible charts her attempts to spend senior year of high school thriving. The film is a rousing and imaginative work — a delightful expansion of what screen romance looks like, especially for trans teenagers, whose lives rarely get treated as case studies in joy.
The academic year begins like all others: with Kelsa’s friends, Em (Courtnee Carter) and Chris (Kelly Lamor Wilson), coming over to her house for an emergency outfit change and her mother (a brilliant Renée Elise Goldsberry) fretting and hovering. In the face of this frenzied din, Kelsa is calm. With college application deadlines around the corner, she’s more concerned about getting into a school in New York or California, where she can study to become a nature cinematographer and revel in the freedom of anonymity. Who knows what she will learn about herself, what kind of person she will be?
Love — and its anxieties — couldn’t be further from Kelsa’s mind. That is, until she meets Khal (Abubakr Ali), a sheepish boy with whom she’s partnered up on the first day of art class. As the laws of romantic comedies dictate, their diametrically opposed personalities make them a perfect match. Whereas Kelsa is witty and upbeat, Khal is self-effacing and timid. Ximena García Lecuona’s sturdy screenplay plots the pair’s courtship endearingly, framing their romance as the meeting of two awkward souls.
Khal pursues Kelsa after a Reddit thread he posted about his crush blows up. Armed with confidence from strangers leaving encouraging comments, Khal decides to make a move. Meanwhile, Kelsa, coming to terms with her developing affection for Khal, finds herself in a tricky position when she finds out that her best friend Em has a crush on him, too.
But the wheels of Kelsa and Khal’s romance are already in motion, resulting in a tense moment that causes a rift in the girls’ friendship. Khal faces similar turbulence when he realizes his childhood buddy Otis (Grant Reynolds) is transphobic. Unable to go to their usual confidants, Khal and Kelsa seek comfort in each other.
Their relationship rouses the school’s gossip mill and inspires a dangerous, unlikely alliance determined to break them up. Lecuona’s story covers a lot of ground in just an hour and a half; some narrative turns don’t get enough room to fully gestate. The film has a breathless quality, as we rush from one dramatic climax to another. That observation is, in essence, less critique than invitation — a call for more, not fewer, trans love stories to fill in what’s been a largely empty space in both big- and small-screen narratives.
Kelsa and Khal’s dates shield them from public scrutiny and jealous actors. They galavant through Pittsburgh, going to the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Garden and visiting art galleries. Through their eyes, the city comes alive, Anything’s Possible doubling as a love letter to Porter’s hometown.
Porter’s direction is particularly sharp in these scenes. Kelsa and Khal’s stolen glances and body language, coupled with Khal’s playful impersonation of David Attenborough and Kelsa’s gentle teasing, texture the pair’s relationship with youthful energy and lust. The Pose star has previously directed theater, but Anything’s Possible is his first venture into film. One hopes it won’t be his last.