First Day is an Australian coming of age four-parter focusing on the trials and tribulations of Hannah as she makes the transition from junior to senior school.
It’s a familiar new-girl story: finding your feet and learning the ropes in an environment where everyone else seems to have a ready made group of friends who know where to go and when to go there, while you’re left floundering in the playground and wondering whether you’ll ever fit in.
But going from junior to senior school is not Hannah’s only transition. She’s trans and terrified of being found out, and flashbacks to the cruel, deadnaming bullies at junior school cannot fail to arouse empathy in even the hardest of hearts.
Written and directed by Julie Kalceff with Evie Macdonald outstanding in the lead role, First Day pitches itself perfectly at its target audience, covering issues such as toilet allocation in a manner which reaches to the heart of the matter without ever becoming preachy or sanctimonious. When the well-meaning head teacher suggests that Hannah use the disabled toilet as some parents wouldn’t want their daughters sharing bathroom facilities “with a boy”, the hurt at the unfairness and the “othering” was palpable.
Macdonald’s ability to emote on camera is laudable, and Kalceff should be congratulated for resisting the temptation to pack her script with self-righteous moralising. Instead, she trusts her young cast to show as much as they tell; television is, after all, a visual medium and for this reason alone, I preferred it to ITV’s 2018 drama Butterfly.
At a time where discussions about trans issues – especially on social media – have a tendency to become toxic and abusive, First Day is a timely reminder that educating people on issues about which they may know very little is often better served by sensitive storytelling than by trading insults and meaningless slogans on Twitter.
All four episodes of First Day are available in the UK on BBC iPlayer.
Watch the trailer here: