CineQ: Seahorse (Dir. Jeanie Finlay, 2019)
"If all men got pregnant, it'd be taken more seriously"
The title "seahorse" refers to the aquatic creature, the male, who is regularly the carrier and the one who gives birth to their young. Our titular seahorse, Alfred "Freddy" McConnell is a transgender man who is hoping to become a father for the first time ... and he is wanting to give birth directly. Freddy states that "if all men got pregnant, it'd be taken more seriously." That in turn is what director Jeanie Finlay is wanting to explore with this.
This documentary takes an indirect approach, as it feels like Finlay is grabbing you by the hand and leading you through the process that Freddy goes undertakes as well as the people in his life. This includes Freddy undergoing testosterone treatment and talks the director has with Freddie on him explaining the changes in his body. This includes going through ovulation and the course of the menstrual cycle. Finlay also gives us insight of the talks and discussions Freddy has with medical practitioners. The sit-downs in their office makes us believe that we are in the room with Freddie as though we were a close relative.
Freddy is a guitar-playing skateboarder who lives is in the city of Deal the same town as mother Esme and her partner. Freddy describes Esme as "a force of nature" who is said to have "done so much". Next, Finlay then allows us to meet the mother and from this discussion the audience understand that she believes everyone should experience pregnancy, including men. And that when Freddy came out at a young age, she had concerns on whether she would have grandchildren from Freddy. We then see archive footage of a seemingly young little Freddy beaming happily and spritely.
We also meet C.J., Freddy's partner, who in turn also wants to start a family, describing how the bond with nephew Carson has been an influence for the decision. C.J. describes wanting to be addressed more as "they and them" rather than "he or his". C.J. and Freddy clearly have a close bond as they face their situation with lightness when it comes to their circumstances, such as joking about having ovaries, etc. Finlay also shows the attempts of getting pregnant and sadly not being able to do it. What she does here is shoot at both subjects, having us witness the reactions from the news, allowing more intimacy from the audience.
I would say that in this doc, Finlay really expresses a lot of interest not just within the subject matter, but primarily when it comes to the subjects that are seen. Her approach is to allow the audience to be led by having close discussions with them so the audience can see how certain events in the doc have affected externally as well as internally. She is not seen on camera but occasionally you would hear her voice talking to them. Her approach feels also warm and give the doc a personal touch. There are no sharp and/or fast cuts, instead the camera wants to stay with the subjects so that the audience can stay with them. Because it is Freddy's story, Finlay is doing this to understand the seriousness of the subject matter and the realities concerning it, and this I think is where the documentary and storytelling itself wins on many grounds
Watch the trailer for Seahorse here
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