Molly McGlynn never saw herself making this movie. Not only was the idea of putting this story on screen too painful, it was too terrifying.
That’s because the plot of Fitting In, which premiered in theatres this week, was directly inspired from her own life — an “emotional horror story” that, aptly, originally bore the title Bloody Hell.
Now McGlynn is glad she made it — and glad to have directed the first movie to focus on the medical issues at the centre of Fitting In.
But, she told CBC News in a recent interview, she was feeling butterflies right up until the cameras started rolling — and not only around putting her own past on the big screen.
“I remember prior to shooting it, I was telling Jane Fonda what it was about,” said McGlynn, who had previously worked with Fonda on the set of the Netflix comedy series Grace and Frankie.
“And I said it’s my second feature. And she looked at me dead in the eyes, and she said: ‘This is very dangerous territory.'”
Luckily for McGlynn, the early reviews are in, and Fitting In is sitting pretty on a comfortable stack of mostly favourable critical responses. Many of those reviews are couched in respect for the film’s focus: a 16-year-old girl grappling with a diagnosis of Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuster-Hauser (MRKH) syndrome.
The condition meant that Lindy (like McGlynn, who was also diagnosed at 16) was born with a shortened vaginal canal, without a uterus or cervix, and would never have sex or bear children without “manual or surgical assistance.”
That made McGlynn question her womanhood and raised concerns about her upcoming sex life that dropped like “a nuclear bomb in a teenager’s life.” But even still, she decided to not only go on with the project but to try to infuse it with humour.
“Essentially it’s about bodies and how they fail us,” she said. “And bodies, to me, are absurd, and they are ripe for humour.”
Rita and Lindy
To carry forward that humour, McGlynn landed on American actor Maddie Ziegler to play Lindy and Schitt’s Creek star Emily Hampshire to play her therapist mother, Rita.
To Hampshire, striking that balance — especially when the person who lived through that trauma is there with you in the room — wasn’t easy. But finding a way to laugh at, and through, the pain eventually became somewhat natural.
“We call it a coming-of-age traumedy, because it is such a traumatic thing that happened to her,” Hampshire said. “But there’s so much humour in [McGlynn], the way she tells her story. And I think at least for me, it made it easier to approach playing somebody’s journey.”
Outside the humour, the sometimes rocky relationship between Rita and Lindy is a central part of Fitting In. At the same time, they both have somewhat parallel struggles with their bodies; as the film progresses, Hampshire’s character grapples with the effects of breast cancer and its treatment.
But the two actors said they became comfortable and fell into their roles surprisingly easily — from Hampshire instinctively guessing the exact perfume McGlynn’s real mother wore (Black Opium) when asked what her character would smell like, to Ziegler improvising an (unprintable) compliment for Rita.
(Hint: it starts with an M.)
But outside of the camaraderie the two felt, both said the opportunity to bring this syndrome to light was the project’s real draw.
“Doing something like [this] allows … other people to feel empowered in their differences,” Hampshire said. “I hope people feel that way from this movie.”
“I think as humans, we’re all so hard on ourselves and so hard on our bodies,” Ziegler added. “To be a voice and a face for the community is just something I never dreamt of. So it’s really an honour.”