Pittsburgh native Billy Porter shines a light on his hometown in his directorial debut, Everything is possible. Kelsa (Eva Reign) is a high school girl with the kind of charming, bossy mother (Renée Elise Goldsberry) that only seems to exist in teen rom-coms. As college application deadlines loom, Kelsa’s mother encourages her to start her dissertation on bravery. She thinks Kelsa should write about the courage it took for her to come out as transgender, but Kelsa thinks otherwise. She is desperate to live her life without sex being part of every conversation she has.
Khal (Abubakr Ali) is also a high school student whose parents (Manu Narayan and Miriam Laube) have already planned his future. They want him to go to a four-year college and get a degree in economics, but Khal’s heart is in art or technical school. He also crushes Kelsa hard. The two share an art class, and the sparks fly hesitantly as their eyes settle on their easels. No matter how confident they seem, Khal and Kelsa are just two clumsy teenagers trying to deal with big feelings they don’t understand.
Everything is possible is an exhibition of Reign and Ali. Teen rom-coms are made or broken by their leads, and these two are seductive. They’re bubbly and effervescent, with an electricity that crackles between them, and they’ve created a great relationship between Khal and Kelsa. It’s Reign and Ali’s performances that really carry the film, especially their portrayal of the overwhelming emotions that come with a teenage crush. As they stroll through the lush gardens of Phipps Conservatory on their first date, it’s easy for audiences to be swept up in their stumbling, endearing conversations and remember how they felt that way themselves.
Just like in Charlie’s worldanother coming-of-age movie shot in Pittsburgh, Everything is possible has its Fort Pitt Tunnel moment. Those who live in the city know there are plenty of other bridges that will get you where you’re going with less traffic, but there’s nothing quite like this view. In Charlie’s world, it’s David Bowie’s infamous “Heroes” scene. In Everything is possible, it’s much more low-key, with glances stolen between Khal and Kelsa as they take the bus on their first date. When the tunnel opens and all the beauty of the city is on display, it is equally awe-inspiring.
It is inevitable that much of the criticism surrounding Everything is possible will be about how predictable, formulaic and corny it is. And those reviews would be fair, but that’s no reason to say the movie isn’t worth it. Formulated, predictable and cheesy don’t make a bad movie. It’s an extraordinarily fine line, and a film falls on either side of this heart-based line. It’s easy to see when actors and filmmakers just go through the motions and use predictable story beats just to make things easier.
Everything is possible is predictable, formulaic and cheesy, and those are its greatest strengths. To watch this film in isolation is to fundamentally misunderstand how life-saving it will be for transgender people of all ages. Everyone deserves to see themselves in a love story. A romantic story so filled to bursting with sweetness that they have a toothache. With a bit of luck, Everything is possible will be a watershed moment, opening the doors to a flood of content focused on trans joy.
The film stretches a little too far in the interpersonal conflicts that arise. Porter and screenwriter Ximena García Lecuona clearly have a lot to say, but the lack of meaningful resolutions for some conflicts leaves their efforts a bit empty. When the movie ends, it feels unexpectedly unresolved, given the genre. It’s as if Porter and Lecuona had a checklist of issues they wanted to cover, but weren’t always able to find enough time for them in the film. Everything is possible would have been better served to explore the lasting effects of losing friendships, especially in adolescence.
The lack of topics Everything is possible looking to cover up does Kelsa’s character a little damage. She becomes overloaded despite Reign’s performance. The film really soars in its quieter moments when Reign has the time and space to deftly deal with the ups and downs of teenage life in a slower fashion. The film lends itself to a sequel about Kelsa’s college experience. How she feels about moving across the country, the freshness of college, and the challenges of growing up would be a welcome continuation of Everything is possible.
The script is fun and fast, with a runtime of 95 minutes. Some of the teenage talk is a bit awkward, but (full disclosure) that could be down to not knowing any teenagers in real life and not spending time on TikTok. The dialogues and slang are very “of the moment”, which is neither good nor bad. It speaks more of how slang and language are dispersed, thanks to modern technology.
There are times of Everything is possible that are just contagious, and there’s a sweetness left at the end of the film. Not overwhelming and certainly not bitter, just lingering pleasure which will stick with audiences long after the credits roll.