This film is not really about fanfiction, per se, but it’s a decent start, as the first Polish film with a trans lead portrayed by a transgender actor.
Being made for free, fanfiction is free to play with controversial, less print-friendly concepts like gender-bending your favorite character. This freedom might go into strange territory, but most often than not, writers use fanfiction for escapism or for catharsis of their day-to-day lives. While the film doesn’t delve into fanfiction’s creative process, Polish drama Fanfic does recognize how the genre’s experimentation allows its writers to safely and freely explore different styles of expression, the same way teenage years hopefully do for its viewers. And as Tosiek goes through the trappings of coming-of-age self-discovery, it’s lovely and comforting and cathartic like the stories he writes.
Fanfic, like plenty of coming-of-age dramas, has a plot that wouldn’t be out of place in real life. Classroom conversations, scrolling through social media, and of course, typing stories on the internet are fairly mundane activities. Because of this, it’s hard to make the sequences stand out visually. Many viewers are already familiar with the lingering close shots and artfully lit scenes from this genre, and there’s plenty of that here. That being said, Fanfic stands out because of the way it fantastically depicts Tosiek’s inner world. On the fanfiction he writes, his words are typed in floating transparent text, and intercuts to black-and-white backstage scenes that recall the 90s grunge concert photographs in the underground music scene. When he decides to finally express his gender, the film has downright stunning sequences where nearly everything pauses and Tosiek basks in the joy of self-expression. It’s a great approach, and makes Fanfic a cathartic watch.