Think back to the trials and tribulations of being sixteen years old—navigating yourself, friendships, and relationships. Now add a reproductive disorder that will jeopardize all three; that’s the reality for Lindy (Maddie Ziegler) in Blue Fox Entertainment’s coming-of-age traumedy Fitting In.
Lindy is your oh-so-typical new girl—a track star, best friends with Viv (Djouliet Amara), crushing on Adam (D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai), and keeping her relationship with her mom, Rita (Emily Hampshire), afloat. After seeing the doctor for birth control, though she has never gotten a period before, Lindy realizes something is wrong.
After a series of tests, including an MRI featuring the sounds of Aqua’s “Barbie Girl,” which, given what we know and love about the Barbie movie, is the perfect touch to this story. Lindy then learns she has MRKH, a rare reproductive disorder causing the vagina and uterus to be underdeveloped or even absent.
Since learning this diagnosis from a less-than-stellar male gynecologist, Lindy’s life is turned upside down, as she was just planning to have sex with her now-golden retriever boyfriend Adam and realizes she will never be able to have children.
When he delivers the news, director and writer Molly McGlynn does an impeccable job of utilizing camera movements to capture the “world crumbling around you.” A feeling that most of us have experienced at least once.
Lindy’s life continues to change as this diagnosis becomes too much to bare. She pushes away those closest to her, including her best friend and boyfriend. Between painful dilations that had viewers next to me wincing, tears, and modern loneliness, Lindy finds herself in a much different spot than the prior months.
Along the way, she gets to know Jax (Ki Griffin), an intersex individual, sharing their story with others. Despite only passing by each other in the pharmacy at the top of the film, Lindy confides in Jax about her condition, and soon after, one too many shots at a party, a few of the guests.
Soon enough, the entire grade finds out about the condition Lindy has and, like most high schoolers, acts like menaces over it. With courage, clarification, and a little help from her friends, Lindy owns up to her condition (in a stereotypical high school one-against-many standoff).
The film concludes with a content Lindy looking at us from the inside and Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” playing us out.
Over the 105-minute film, McGlynn makes the audience feel something and even jerks some tears, but the tears don’t last long because there is a punchline just around the corner, ensuring that viewers get the message but don’t dwell on a sad moment.
The writing is authentic to the current Gen-Z culture, which Ziegler commended McGlynn on in the post-screening Q&A with Ziegler and Amara.
“It was just about being a human, rather than ‘I’m a teen.’ It was a human experience, and I thought, ‘That’s why she’s so brilliant,’” said Ziegler. “Being 16 is so high cringe… A lot of people are trying to write these really cool teenagers, but teenagers are not cool,” Amara chimed in.
Speaking of Ziegler, her acting has soared to new heights. While she became a household name in 2014 after starring in Sia’s “Chandelier” music video, many OGs met her as a nine-year-old dressed in powder blue and white, a la Dorthy and The Wizard of Oz, on Lifetime’s Dance Moms. From there, we knew there was a star in the making. Her comedic timing, coupled with her dramatic monologues, is a display of her growth.
Ziegler’s star shines alongside the rest of the cast, including Hampshire, whose character starts as a fit yet unsteady mother who is met with mediocrity in her work as a therapist and her love life when she fails to find a partner. However, toward the middle of the film, we start to see more layers of Rita when we dive into her previous journey with breast cancer and the lengths she will go to to help her daughter.
Rita is the only parent we’re introduced to, as Viv’s homelife was cut from the final script (it would’ve been great to see more background, but the film was already jampacked.) What we do know, from what Amara discussed in the panel, is that Viv had more absentee parents. We learn that her mother is away on business while her daughter competes in one of her biggest track events.
Nonetheless, the dynamic between Lindy and Viv is the epitome of a genuine high school friendship; even when things hit the fan, they have one another’s backs– even if the other one doesn’t know it at the time. The chemistry between the two is evident both on and off-screen, with Amara calling Ziegler “a f*cking lovely gem” and describing the overall filming process as “summer camp.”
Fitting In is Molly McGlynn’s semi-autobiography, and she turns her pain into passion and passion into an exceptional film. For Ziegler, bringing this story to life and raising awareness of this condition was a transformative experience.
“I was so specific about getting it right for Molly, and I wanted to do her story justice as best as I could. Something I’m so thankful that she did [for all of us] was, ‘As much as this is my story, it’s yours now too,’ and she gave us the freedom to explore the characters in a way she might not have even thought of,” she explained.
Regardless of opinions on the plot, audience members can agree that they walked away educated about this condition that society has buried for too long. Ziegler herself discussed the importance of women being able to talk about their bodies without the fear of “being taboo.”
Fitting In is a hilariously sad, honest rollercoaster that impeccably shows, rather than tells, the story of overcoming adversity in the face of one of the worst times in people’s lives: being a teenager. In a time when movie-goers long for the return of the next Y2K-esque coming-of-age film, Fitting In is an exceptional addition to that modern-day lineup.
Fitting In is in theatres now. Find a screening near you here.