Marking Billy Porter’s film directing debut, “Anything’s Possible” is a sensitive high-school love story that’s so light on conflict as to risk blowing away. Placing a trans teen at its center adds some heft to material that would in an earlier era would have been presented as an after-school special, but the uplifting and timely messaging can’t completely elevate this earnest but thin Amazon movie.
The key relationship involves Kelsa (Eva Reign), a trans girl who doesn’t want that aspect of her life to overshadow everything else that’s unique about her as she plans for college and beyond; and Khal (Abubakr Ali), a shy and likable boy with a fuzzier future who is still finding himself.
Sparks fly almost instantly when the two share a class together, with the minor complication that Kelsa’s friend (Courtnee Carter) also has a crush on him.
Therein lies the movie’s main problem, since all the complications in Ximena García Lecuona’s script feel relatively minor, and slightly scattered: Khal worrying about whether his family will approve; Khal’s friend (Grant Reynolds) exhibiting a transphobic side; Kelsa being told Khal is “only dating you for the ‘woke’ points;” and an argument that gets blown out of proportion, unleashing more anti-trans sentiment.
The fact that both of the protagonists share their thoughts online, essentially allowing them to alternate in narrating the story, might be emblematic of the times, but risks playing like a device to get inside their heads in ways that the story otherwise doesn’t.
The most memorable elements, as a consequence, have little to do with advancing the larger story, but rather stem from the natural and awkward but sweet way that Kelsa and Khal get to know each other, with the self-sufficient Kelsa flatly telling him, “I don’t need you to save me.”
The same goes for Kelsa’s relationship with her mom (“Hamilton’s” Renée Elise Goldsberry), with the girl’s references to the “law of averages” meaning that mom isn’t allowed to dwell on questions that wouldn’t be asked of any other kid.
Those scenes hint at a more ambitious movie that “Anything’s Possible” never quite becomes, which seems particularly notable when juxtaposed with series that cover similar terrain, like Porter’s run on “Pose” or HBO’s “Euphoria.” Porter does turn the setting into a love letter to his native Pittsburgh, which adds to the personal nature of the enterprise.
The result, finally, is kind of this, kind of that, and at its best, kind of good. In keeping with the title, “Anything’s Possible” feels more interesting for the promise exhibited by its key players than what the movie delivers.
“Anything’s Possible” premieres July 22 on Amazon. It’s rated PG-13.