Anything’s Possible made it to the 2020 Black List, a list of unproduced screenplays that are most liked but are not necessarily the best. Upon watching the film, one can see why this story would gather attention as it is an endearing tale of self-acceptance and unconditional love. Kelsa and Khalid have an excellent relationship that is typical in many ways, but surprisingly refreshing in others. This film’s primary focus is romance, but an essential character-driven narrative at the heart of it makes it a compelling watch. However, while there is a lot to like, there are problems. Surprisingly, the main issue is that Kelsa’s story is far too condensed. The screenplay should have been turned into a series that aired on a TV network or streaming service, preferably Prime Video, as the 2022 acquisition of MGM is how the film landed on the platform for release. There is so much to like about the film, but so little time to explore all it entails.
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Anything’s Possible, previously called What If?, is Billy Porter’s feature directorial debut. Written by Ximena García Lecuona, the coming-of-age romantic comedy tells the story of Kelsa (Eva Reign), a teenage girl who develops a crush on Khalid (Abubakr Ali) at school. While all the usual speed bumps are present as their romance blossoms, the main thing that can make or break this relationship is the reality that comes with Kelsa being trans.
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Before getting into the minor issues, it’s important to note the big wins. Billy Porter is known for being a fabulously dressed and dynamic person; it makes sense that his feature debut would reflect that. His directorial effort is confident and consistent. It stands out visually, but technically the film is practical and understated. Porter put a lot of stock in making sure his movie exuded vibrancy without being too bold with the camera work. The costumes by Analucia McGorty are elaborate and extravagant, sometimes too much for the setting. Kelsa and her friends Em (Courtnee Carter) and Chris (Kelly Lamor Wilson) go above and beyond to openly convey their interests, personalities, and identities. This is admirable as it helps differentiate it from other teen-focused projects like the ultra-sexy styling of the teens of Euphoria and the posh and fashion-forward styling of the rich kids of Gossip Girl. The fashion of Anything’s Possible tips its cap to the LGBTQ+ community, particularly the trans community, as Kelsa is often dressed in blue, pink, and white. Furthermore, self-expression through clothing is key to who Kelsa is, someone who is seeking ways to stand out and be who she is meant to be.
Eva Reign is magnetic. There is an undeniable IT girl factor about her that makes it hard to tear one’s eyes from her. Luckily, the delightfully charismatic and sweet Abubakr Ali often shares the screen with her. Initially, Yasmine Finnley was slated to play Kelsa. While Finnley went on to star in Netflix’s hit teen series Heartstopper, Reign is stepping into the spotlight to hopefully be one of many young trans stars to make a name for themselves in this business. She deserves praise as Reign brings a great deal of warmth and confidence to Kelsa. There is an absolute ease to how she portrays the character that will have viewers rooting for her from the onset. Ali is equally enjoyable, offsetting Kelsa’s calm demeanor with a quirky personality that is just mesmerizing. They are simply delightful together.
The story covers familiar ground with teens looking to the future, uncertain about what colleges to attend and picturing how they will become fully realized people. Anything’s Possible focuses on a trans girl, so the narrative threads that aspect of Kelsa’s life into the broader narrative. However, this is where the film’s script underwhelms. The story has many threads that fail to conclude satisfactorily. The story has a touching and comprehensive understanding of the reality of a cisgender person being in a relationship with a trans partner, which is to say, there is not a significant difference from other teens dating. The reality of how a young trans person perceives themselves in a single-parent home is also well realized. Renée Elise Goldsberry and Reign are exquisite in performing these complex and thoughtful scenes. Khalid is given a compelling character arc and a dynamic family that pushes the boundaries of how Muslim families are portrayed in mainstream Hollywood. Overall, Lecuona’s script takes the conventions of the teen rom-com and merely adjusts to give Kelsa and Khalid a dignified and genuine story.
However, the film loses its footing when Kelsa’s trans identity is weaponized against her by students in her grade. Lecuona, and by proximity, Porter, deal with the issue of young people harboring outdated ideas and the limits of “liberal-minded” people. Two characters are at odds with Kelsa when she enters a relationship with Khal, which results in them seeking to punish Kelsa. One of them repents after persuading the school to close off women-only spaces to Kelsa; the other does not after showing homophobic and transphobic behavior and encouraging the ostracization of Kelsa. These narrative threads are relevant, and it would have been ideal if the film were a series to flesh out these elements.
Additionally, Kelsa does not get a satisfactory resolution with either person, and she is shown in the film to be someone capable of speaking directly with someone when there is an issue to address. In one notable scene, after the school bans Kelsa from using the women’s bathroom and locker room, she sets the record straight with a friend who rallies their classmates against the school. What would have been seen as a show of solidarity by most is seen as a selfish act by Kelsa, which opens up a fascinating topic of what performative activism is and how it affects the people it is about. However, that’s all concentrated into one scene and is never revisited after.
Anything’s Possible is careful to never dwell on the bad side of Kelsa’s experiences. Its goal is to be hopeful and sweet. It succeeds in that regard, but not closing off these loose threads makes the whole thing feel a little undone. There is a sense that more could have been explored, not just in terms of Kelsa and Khalid’s story, which is lovely, but Kelsa’s relationships outside of her romantic one. They are the most intriguing elements of the film, but since there are so many other things to touch upon, it all ends up being hastily concluded for a happy ending. A ten-part series about the highs and lows of high school romances and friendships à la Netflix’s Never Have I Ever would have been perfect for Kelsa’s story. Anything is Possible is great for what it is, but its potential is even greater.