Film Review – Fitting In

Fitting In

Fitting In

The human body is a weird, scary, and wonderful thing. This is especially true for women. Granted, I’m not the best person to go to when it comes to understanding the female body. The strangeness and terror of going through puberty, sexual awakening, menstrual cycles, pregnancy, childbirth, along with all the social pressures to look and act a certain way are all things I admit to having no clue. But what makes writer/director Molly McGlynn’s Fitting In (2023) work is that it allows us a glimpse into the mindset of a person dealing with many of these factors. We’re put into their shoes and brought into their world, going through the ups and downs of intense personal challenges.

On the surface, the narrative operates as your standard high school coming of age tale. Lindy (Maddie Ziegler) is a teen who – for the most part – seems well adjusted for someone her age. She participates in her school’s track team, has a close friend in Vivian (Djouliet Amara), has a stable connection with her caring (yet overbearing) mom Rita (Emily Hampshire), and is in a relationship with her boyfriend Adam (D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai). But Lindy is growing into a young adult and can feel the urges and pressures to have sex. While Adam tries to be understanding and patient, Lindy senses the strain of not having sex. Things get more complicated when – after visiting a gynecologist – she discovers that she has a rare reproductive condition. To put it plainly: Lindy was born without a uterus and with a shallow vaginal canal – which makes having sex difficult and bearing children impossible.

This news rocks Lindy’s world and becomes the central narrative thread. McGlynn’s writing uses the title “Fitting In” for several different meanings. On one hand, Lindy wants to “fit in” with the rest of her friends and classmates. Where other girls talk about partying, hooking up, and exploring their sexuality, Lindy visits doctor after doctor trying to find an option to treat her “problem.” On the flipside, the title could take on a whole different implication, involving the space of her vaginal canal. To make more room down there – and thus gain the ability to have intercourse – Lindy is given a set of “tools” that could be used to help push the space open. The scenes where Lindy uses the tools look painful. Mercifully, McGlynn’s direction does not focus on the graphic details. Instead, the camerawork (Nina Djacic) closes in on Lindy’s face. The looks of distress and discomfort are all we need to imagine the kind of ordeal she is going through.

You may ask yourself, “Why would she put herself through that?” I believe that is one of the main points McGlynn is getting at. Throughout the years, there have been steps made to help people accept themselves both physically and mentally. And yet, we still live in a society where emphasis is placed on appearances, sexual ability, and having to meet a specific standard of “normal.” Although no one ever says these things out loud to Lindy, we can recognize her getting those impressions. It’s not a coincidence that all the gynecologists she meets early on are men, all of whom can scientifically explain what’s going on with her body, but none of whom can relate on an emotional level. Although Adam doesn’t outwardly show toxic behavior, his inability to understand Lindy’s state of mind acts as a roadblock to their relationship. And while Lindy’s mother is a constant presence of support, her insistence to make Lindy feel normal ends up having the opposite effect. 

The only person who sees Lindy on even ground is Jax (Ki Griffin), a fellow classmate who identifies as non-binary. With Jax, Lindy feels removed from the anxieties of having to fit in any type of category. The idea of “self” is different for everyone. Through her conversations with Jax, Lindy comes to a better understanding that nothing must be set in stone, nothing must be a specific way, and that her situation doesn’t have to be seen as a problem. Ziegler and Griffin work well together during their one-on-one scenes. Their dialogue is free of judgment – it is one of the few instances where Lindy can relax and be herself. The necessities of “plot” throw an unnecessary wrench into this dynamic, turning a connection that was natural and organic into something dramatically formulaic. But luckily, the performances are strong enough to keep things from falling off the rails.


The success of Fitting In is in the frank and honest talk about womanhood, and how that word is defined for each individual person. Where it falters is in the nuts and bolts of the storytelling – the way the story progresses from scene to scene and how character relationships change. Conflict is introduced to every part of Lindy’s life, whether it be with her mom, Vivian, Adam, or Jax. Some have legitimate stakes, while others feel like shallow resentments, to plain old misunderstandings. Nearly all the narrative obstacles are overcome conveniently, culminating in a climactic scene that ends up being – sadly – the worst moment of the film. In what is supposed to be a sequence of catharsis, Lindy lets out all her frustrations in rapid fire. But the staging, dialogue, and execution badly mismanages it, taking a moment of triumph and making it awkward and cringey. Tonally, the scene sticks out badly.

But despite those hiccups, there is a lot to like with Fitting In. It has the potential to help normalize topics that some may see as taboo. What its protagonist experiences is not a singular case – I am sure there are plenty of people in similar situations. Hopefully, this will help them feel more understood, even if it’s a tiny amount. When it comes to narrative cohesion, there are other coming-of-age stories that are more fully realized than this one. But if this spurs discussion amongst those who haven’t given these themes a thought before, then the film did its job.

Film stills courtesy of Blue Fox Entertainment.




Allen is a moviegoer based out of Seattle, Washington. His hobbies include dancing, playing the guitar, and, of course, watching movies.

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