Two-4-One tackles gender identity with humour, sensitivity

Two-4-One

Where: Vic, Cineplex Odeon

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When: Saturday, 6:30 p.m.; Sunday, noon

Rating: 4/5 stars


When Gabrielle Rose was cast in Two-4-One as the eccentric, pot-smoking mother of Adam, a transgender person in the final stages of transitioning from female to male, she gained a new fan base overnight.

“I had people come up after a screening in Vancouver and say: ‘Oh, I wish you were my mom!’ ” Rose, 62, said with a laugh. “I don’t know if my children would agree with them.”

The prolific Canadian actor’s long list of credits includes Atom Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter, Jeremy Podeswa’s The Five Senses, Carl Bessai’s Sisters & Brothers and Hollywood fare such as Hector and the Search for Happiness and The Big Year. Playing Franny, the free-spirited aging hippie in writer-director Maureen Bradley’s comedy, is one of her favourites, she said.

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“A lot of it was because of my outfit and there is a bit of old hippie in me,” admits Rose. “I was 16 in the 1960s and I enjoyed my time, but I’m not quite as sunny as she is. I have my darker moments.”

Despite its far-fetched premise and material some might regard as too risqué for comfort, Two-4-One is a funny and touching, sensitively handled and well-acted film. It relates the dilemma facing Adam (Gavin Crawford), who, before completing the surgical phase of his gender transition, agrees to artificially inseminate his ex-girlfriend Miriam (Naomi Snieckus) using donor sperm. Complications ensue, however, and Adam also ends up pregnant, bringing to the fore gender-identity issues tucked into a story notable for its underlying humanity.

“I get goosebumps as we just talk about it,” said Rose. “I think it’s truly a gem of a film, one of those that creeps up on you and leaves a smile on your face. It makes you feel there’s a little more hope for humanity.”

As wacky and straight-shooting as her character is, Franny is full of love and support for Adam, said Rose, who considers herself as open-minded as the character.

“I have absolutely no question in my mind that if either of my children came to me and said I’m confused, or I’m oriented in a way I wasn’t born, I’d do whatever I could to support them as they find themselves,” said the actor, who has two boys, 21 and 15.

Shooting Bradley’s feature debut in Victoria this time last year was one of her most rewarding experiences, said the Kamloops-born actor who recently wrapped Connor Gaston’s feature debut The Devout here.

“I’ve played lots of moms and now I’m doing grandmothers,” said Rose, who was cast in The Devout as Ava, a terminally ill girl’s feisty grandma.

They’re among several films and TV projects Rose has filmed here, including Sleeping With Strangers, Normal, Dungeon Siege, Cleaverville and scenes for UnREAL, Lifetime’s new series about reality TV shows.

“You have to keep reinventing yourself and be honest with who you are now, what you can play now and how you look now, all the time staying in the best shape and health possible,” she said.

While Rose looks terrific for her age, she recalls looking a lot lumpier 14 years ago — an appearance she deliberately cultivated for her role as the guilt-ridden school bus driver in Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter.

“I’d just had my first child and Atom called and said there’s a part for you and I hear you’re really skinny now, but I think she needs to be a ‘round’ person,” she recalled.

“I said: ‘OK, I’ll gain weight. I love food.’ So I started eating doughnuts on set, which I haven’t allowed myself to do, and I drank Guinness and gained about 16 pounds.”

She knew something was wrong, however, when Egoyan reacted with a look of concern before filming began. She assumed he thought she hadn’t gained enough weight.

“He said: ‘All your facial lines are gone. You look younger,’ ” said Rose, recalling he wanted her character to be in her mid-50s. She came up with a solution.

“I said: ‘Let’s put a neck brace on, because it squishes up your face and you get lines, and they put clothes on me that were a bit too tight.”

Rose has done four other films with Egoyan — Family Viewing, Speaking Parts, The Adjuster and Where the Truth Lies — and said she’d work with him again in a heartbeat.

“Atom touches something deep in my soul and his stories have so many layers,” Rose said.

mreid@timescolonist.com

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