Documentary director Jeanie Finlay established herself with innovative films about lesser-seen sides of the music industry (‘Sound It Out, ‘The Great Hip-Hop Hoax’). Initially, ‘Seahorse’ appears less ambitious, almost out of deference to the emotional trials of its subject, transgender journalist Freddy McConnell. But after a twist at the half-hour mark, it becomes clear that she has given the narrative and, at points, the camera over to McConnell. His edited contributions create a roadmap for the relatively uncharted territory of trans-male pregnancy.
The film selects key moments from the years-long process of McConnell using his ‘biological machinery’ to become pregnant. As he stops having hormone injections and his hard-won male signifiers soften, he weighs a visceral sense of losing himself against his aim of becoming a dad.
Supported by his mum, he navigates both the pregnancy itself and an awareness that his story could become fuel for tabloid hate. Finlay adeptly weaves in the backdrop of a society that wilfully misunderstands trans people without letting that engulf what is primarily a character study of a deeply determined person. ‘Seahorse’ really finds itself when it allows McConnell’s voice and thoughts to take precedence over the cluttered set-up. With an understated sense of humour, his throwaway delivery masks moments of radical eloquence.