Tribeca 2023 Review: “Your Fat Friend” Considers the Kind of Weight That Can’t Be Measured in Pounds

“There’s something about saying things out loud that makes you see them anew,” Aubrey Gordon’s mother Pat says towards the end of “Your Fat Friend,” thinking out loud as her daughter is doing a podcast and she’s just given a more formal sit-down interview with director Jeanie Finlay. These were not things that Pat would’ve likely envisioned for her daughter, nor would Aubrey have envisioned for herself a decade earlier, but it all started with actually saying things out loud albeit anonymously when Gordon started sharing her thoughts about how she felt perceived because of her weight at her friend’s behest on a blog and without identifying herself, she became an online sensation for her candor and pushing back on a culture fixated on weight loss as something that can be controlled.

Gordon is introduced by her voice rather than her physical appearance in “Your Fat Friend,” a moving chronicle of Gordon reconciling ideas about who she is with her corporeal form, not just in some abstract sense but in a very concrete way when the publication of her memoir “What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat” requires her to shed her anonymity. The film in many ways makes for a nice companion piece with Finlay’s previous film “Seahorse: The Dad Who Gave Birth,” in which the documentarian covered the pregnancy of Freddy McConnell, a trans man who made tabloid headlines in his native England, but was seen far more sensitively through her lens where his body wasn’t going to define who he was. That might not be entirely true of Gordon, who embraces her body to a point of considering herself a “Fat Activist” and happily builds a collection of diet books to make herself laugh and to show an industrial incentive to shame consumers into self-help solutions that are unlikely to pan out. But while her professional life has flourished as a result of openly discussing her weight, it would obviously be a mistake to see her only through that prism, having a way with words that makes it easy to see why 30,000 people flocked to her blog in its first week of existence regardless of the subject matter and a relationship with her parents, who separated when she was a teen, that is gradually teased out by Finlay that clearly had a major impact on her life.

Then again in spite of Gordon taking center stage for the majority of “Your Fat Friend,” it may be far less about her than the society around her as Finlay gets her to read passages from her popular blog that outline the hazards of living in a world that wasn’t made for people like herself, describing the issues she faces from going to the doctor’s office where a blood pressure armband is unlikely to fit and every conversation is likely to turn into one about her weight, even if it’s regarding something unrelated such as birth control, or having to largely give up her passion for swimming when the judgment that will come from wearing a swimsuit in public isn’t worth whatever pleasure she’ll get out of it. With the same grace and gentility that Finlay usually affords her subjects to work out their feelings in front of the camera, you can tell that Gordon as well as her family, including her father Rusty, are doing some soul searching when they’re contending with centuries of cultural conditioning, making the moment when she can see herself for the first time on the dust jacket for her book seem as if it’s also the first time she’s had that clarity in her life. When Gordon can speak so eloquently about how the body she’s been born into can only go so far in reflecting the person that she is, it allows “Your Fat Friend” to extend that notion to a far broader body that might want to take a look at itself in the mirror.

“Your Fat Friend” will screen at Tribeca Festival on June 9th at the AMC 19th St. East at 6:30 pm and at the Village East on June 16th at 2:45 pm and June 18th at 12:30 pm.

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