Your Fat Friend review | An honest, triumphant film from Jeanie Finlay

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Jeanie Finlay explores fatness, anti-fatness and the life of activist and writer Aubrey Gordon in her new documentary. Here’s our review of Your Fat Friend. 

This is a review of Your Fat Friend. The reason that I’m stating it here is that I’m going to talk about a different film first; Greatest Days. Last summer’s Take That movie musical was a warm hug of a film, one that we even put on the cover of a magazine, but I’d like to tell a short story about that film’s press screening. 

Greatest Days follows four friends who embark on a strange journey to Athens to see their childhood favourite band live. One of these friends, Claire, used to be a competitive swimmer, but as we meet Claire again as an adult, now played by Jayne Adams, her body has changed. She’s now fat (we’ll talk about that word more later). 

The first time we see Adams as the older Claire, a man, somewhere behind me in the packed auditorium in Leicester Square, audibly groaned in frustration, disappointment, disgust. To that man, Claire must have seemed like another promising woman, who let themselves go, failing some invisible, unspoken test that is set for women. 

I felt angry, sad and had a strong urge to leave the cinema then and there, because Claire’s story mirrors my own very closely. I didn’t leave, but I immediately pulled my shirt down further to hide any imperfections of my body from public view. 

your fat friend aubrey gordon

I thought about that press screening a lot while watching Your Fat Friend, Jeanie Finlay’s impossibly kind, warm and focused documentary on fat activist Aubrey Gordon. The film takes its name from Gordon’s online blog where she shared her thoughts and insights about fatness and anti-fatness. She quickly gained a following and ultimately landed a book deal, writing What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat. Adele and James Corden are just a few celebrities who count themselves as Gordon’s fans. 

The film begins with the words: “Just say fat.” Spoken by Gordon in voiceover, she encourages people to stop hiding behind words like curvy and chubby, because the word fat is not an insult. Many fat people can relate to Gordon’s experiences of being told “oh no, you’re not fat, you’re beautiful!” when describing herself as fat. 

Your Fat Friend focuses tightly on Gordon’s experience as a fat woman, experiencing daily anti-fatness, which she calls “the water we swim in every day”. Her parents are also interviewed and there’s a refreshing honesty to Gordon talking to her mother about all the diets they embarked on together and how harmful they were in reality, for both women. 

The inevitable question, as it always seems to be when talking about fatness, is, what about the health consequences? What about diabetes? Heart disease? You could die from being fat! Your Fat Friend rarely touches on these, but then again, it doesn’t really need to. This isn’t a documentary about the pros and cons of being fat or the medical facts of obesity; it’s about what it’s like to live in a body, a perfectly beautiful, strong, functioning body, that is deemed by others as unworthy and often, unlovable. 

Gordon’s overwhelming positivity (although we see it falter a few times) is what often carries the film. Finlay gives her space to exist, just as she is, and to tell her story in her own words over the six years in which the two filmed the documentary. The focus of this 90-minute feature feels a little narrow at times, and there’s arguably more to say about America’s culture around eating, but this is delicate, honest filmmaking from Finlay. A real gem. 

Your Fat Friend is in cinemas now. 

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