feature films

Sparkle and Shine

A film by Rhonda Buckley

It’s 2010, Avery’s family is raised by a single mother RUTH (42), who works hard as a nurse and raises four girls LORI (17), SUE (16), JILL (15), and AVERY (10). Their mother is obsessed with pragmatic details, responsibility, and “not getting too big for your breaches”. To the daughters and SISTERS, their mother is insufferable.

But to Avery, the youngest, the bullying and savage ways of (her) his sisters are caustic. She is called Pudge and often reminded daily she was a mistake as she is 5 years younger. Avery can barely get by in school, compounded by her own sibling’s disdain; most days she escapes to lie in a forest by the river to find some sense of escape.

In school they are meant to take an elective, ballet class in the gym. As Avery must wear ‘ballet type clothing’ and do other ‘little girl’ rituals like own a fluorescent pink bedroom and wear berets, Avery knows she is not a girl, at all. She feels like and is a boy, she is he. While in a dance class, she looks to a boy Raoul and envisions his beautiful body transposed over hers. Raoul stands with perfect posture and is confident and keen to become a dancer, he is different than the other boys. Avery wonders when she will feel complete.

Raoul gets Avery through the hard times at school and helps ease the pain of the family’s constant torture. They share a bond, knowing just to get out of this small town means they will survive.

As Avery’s sisters move away from home, he is a boy, and Ruth supports Avery. He keeps his name, and when he gets accepted to design school in New York by 18, he attends on full scholarship and makes the transition to becoming a man. Before Avery graduates, he falls in love with a successful businessman David, and their love and design business make them a hot and successful couple in NY.

In NY, Avery and David meet Raoul while at the theatre afterparty, and Avery shares with David how much Raoul’s support meant to him at such a crucial time when he was young. He did, in fact, save his life. While life with David and their business has become next to perfect, Avery needs to know Raoul is in his world with him. David is surprised to know that loving and living with Avery also means his family will be involved, as David is estranged from his own family. While loving Avery’s Mom, Ruth, David cuts off the sisters from their home who have been torturous to Avery over the years. After a sudden trip home, the sister’s Jill and Sue are in a car accident, and Jill is killed without having made amends with Avery.

Avery returns home for the first time since moving away to attend the funeral, and after the service Raoul and Avery walk through their same neighourhood where they grew up. Avery is a man, and many would not know who he was before. Raoul, openly gay, is dressed in drag as an eloquent woman. They walk through their community together, past shops and storekeepers. As Avery walks up to his home and goes in to see his family he says, “I’m home”. He knows he has survived his small-town life. He knows now how to be home on his own terms.

Sparkle and Shine is one young child’s journey through growing up to be a man, while being bullied by his family.

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