Fitting In REVIEW – A Feminist Coming of Age Tale

Maddie Ziegler is proving herself to be quite the acting force.

Fitting In
Fitting In

As we all know, so many areas of women’s health is regarded with shame and stigma. If a woman is angry or emotional, she must be on period, or have PMS. Visits to the gynae are a fearful thing, mainly due to the medical professionals who probe your body and expect you to be okay with it. I’ve had friends who were shamed by their doctors for reacting to the pain of various invasive procedures. In the words of Diablo Cody, “hell is a teenage girl”, and that hell doesn’t stop even when you’re a woman.

Lindy (Maddie Ziegler) wants what any teenage girl wants: romance, acceptance, sex. And she thinks she’s found it all with Adam (D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai), this boy she’s been seeing. So far, their hangouts together involve reading, watching movies, and make-out sessions, but nothing more. Lindy’s never had sex, and she’s hoping to change that with Adam. So off she goes to the gynae, to get some birth control and move things forward with Adam. But this visit changes everything.

Lindy discovers that she’s got MRKH syndrome, which is a disorder that affects the female reproductive system. Lindy doesn’t have a uterus, and her vagina canal is shortened. This means that it will be very difficult for her to have regular, penetrative intercourse, so whatever plans she wanted to pursue with Adam has now gone up in smoke. Her mom Rita (Emily Hampshire), who hasn’t had the best experience with men, warns her of telling Adam before she’s really sure about the relationship. Lindy’s not sure what to do, but finds herself pulling away from him. Despite how open-minded Adam is – his favourite movie is Carrie – he seems to have a one-track mind when it comes to Lindy. Even though she’s clearly avoiding sex with him, he never really tries to find out why.

Fitting In is as good as it is because of Ziegler’s performance. Her performance reflects Lindy’s anxieties and anger about the entire situation, and a general feeling of helplessness. She feels like she can’t tell any of her peers, which leads to distance in her relationships, as well as her participation in school activities. Her mom is empathetic, but Lindy can’t bear discussing her condition more than she needs to. We feel Lindy’s overwhelming loneliness and desperation as she cajoles herself to work on her vagina dilation every night. These feelings lead Lindy to do some messed up things, in order to regain some measure of control in her life.

What I appreciate about director Molly McGlynn’s Fitting In is that Lindy isn’t the perfect, morally righteous female protagonist we sometimes see in these coming of age films. She can be impulsive and reckless, and has the tendency to push away people who try to care for her, like her mom and love interest Jax (Ki Griffin). Even the way she handles her relationship with new guy Chad (Dale Whibley) is fairly selfish. While Rita’s character isn’t really central to the narrative, I do wish there was more space for her in the film, since she’s also dealing with fallouts of her own that resonate. I also like that mothers in film are getting more diverse these days, instead of the usual archetype that’s dominated the screens.

The small issue with the film is that it can feel a bit meandering, since it resists the urge to be formulaic and take us to an expected conclusion. But I like that it ends with this sense that Lindy still has a long way to go when it comes to figuring her life out and who she is. McGlynn’s coming of age flick is content to be what it is and doesn’t strive to check boxes, and that’s the most feminist thing of all.

Review screener provided.

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Fitting In
Fitting In explores the difficulties teens face in just being themselves. Ziegler is fantastic as 16 year old Lindy, who finds her life turned upside down after an MRKH diagnosis.