Respectful Yet Provoking True Story
Here in the UK I would guess the name Gwen Araujo means a lot less than it does in America especially in Newark, California, it is a name I had never heard of before choosing to watch "A Girl Like Me: The Gwen Araujo Story". I say that because I am sure if you knew Gwen or were familiar with her story prior to watching "A Girl Like Me: The Gwen Araujo Story" you might have a different opinion on this made for TV movie than I do. As such what I watched was an effective drama about Gwen who was born as Eddie Araujo but realised that she was a female in a male body and ended up murdered when four men which she was friendly with discovered she was transsexual. It could have been better, I don't feel that I really got to know Gwen but as a dramatization of a difficult life it worked and more importantly spiked my interest to know more.
Now from a storyline point of view in "A Girl Like Me: The Gwen Araujo Story" we have two things going on, we have the court case following Gwen's disturbing murder and we also have Gwen's story of growing up. In truth if you watched this movie for the court room side of things you are going to be left wanting because whilst it doesn't shy away from the defence's attempt to paint Gwen in a bad light it doesn't go into a huge amount of detail. What detail it does go into is enough for the tone of this movie which is more about Gwen's journey through her short life and it will leave you feeling sick as to how the defence went about the case but also as to what happened to Gwen.
But what this really means is that "A Girl Like Me: The Gwen Araujo Story" becomes all about Gwen's journey through life. What we watch is as a young boy born Eddie, Gwen would wear her mum's make-up and clothes, egged on by her sister and we see a variety of family embarrassments from a party where Eddie where's a dress to later on a family meal. But what all this does is establish what Gwen went through, the determination to live life on her terms and deal with the difficulties it presents none more so when it came to having relationships with men. At the same time we watch as Gwen's mum Sylvia dealt with this, the difficulty of initially accepting that Eddie was now Gwen but also becoming supportive of her.
What this means if that for me "A Girl Like Me: The Gwen Araujo Story" was effective, it took me on this journey of a young boy living life as a girl, highlighting the difficulties from relationships to family but also delivering just enough of the disturbing murder to be respectful but make me want to know more. But having said that I never felt like I really got to know Gwen, didn't really get to know how determined she was and I would imagine for those who know the true story of Gwen Araujo probably feel the same that despite a good performance from JD Pardo as Gwen her spirit never truly manifests. But that doesn't take anything away from Pardo's performance who commits to the role brilliant as do all the cast especially Mercedes Ruehl as Gwen's supportive mum Sylvia.
What this all boils down to is that for me "A Girl Like Me: The Gwen Araujo Story" was an effective dramatisation of a difficult story. It did a decent job of taking us through Gwen's life having been born a girl in a boy's body and at the same time delivering just enough of the disturbing court case to get across the sickening aspect of Gwen's fate. It could have been better but for a TV movie it is much better than I was expecting.