Outfest closed out this summers festival with a lovely movie called Freak Show, marking the directorial debut of Trudie Styler. Based on the 2007 novel by James St. James, the story follows the teenage years of Billy Bloom, a funny, good-hearted, cross-dressing teen who becomes the new student at an ultra-conservative high school. Although accosted with Bible believing cheerleaders, the jocks, the bullies, Billy takes a stand. Determined to be who he is and not bow to peer pressure, he refuses to change his outlandish outfits or behavior. Instead, he decides to run for Homecoming Queen for outcasts and underdogs everywhere. Within this framework Billys life revolves around these relationships: his mother, father, Flip Kelly, Blah, Blah. Blah (she talks so fast he never quite gets her name) and Florence. But let’s talk about Billy. As played by Alex Lawther (last seen in the Imitation Game) this is performance nothing less than Oscar worthy. He is in every scene and he plays Billy with such conviction (starting with the fact he British) that it is often painful to watch. His face is nothing less than a canvas on which to draw whatever emotion is required; in some scenes, he almost seems to become a mime channeling Guiletta Masina (look her up!). It is powerful performance and even as it is about being fabulous (“I normally take being-over dramatic as a compliment”) he always has something behind the look that feels real and vulnerable. There is no shortage of teenage films about high school (from Rebel Without a Cause to Twilight) and the cruelty encountered in those years. It is legendary and in Freak Show, there is ample violence, bullying and harassment to make one feel very uncomfortable—and that may be its point. As diercted by Trudie Styler it never crosses that line of being didactic or message-driven, it simply tells the story with grace. With appearances by Bette Midler, Abigail Breslin, Laverne Cox, John McEnroe, Larry Pine and most notably Celia Weston as Florence, Freak Show seems perfect for the moment. A film about standing ground in the face of adversity, being true to one’s self at all costs, Freak Show was the perfect way to end a film festival about the diverse and the changing landscape of the LGBT community.