FINDING DISTANCE ~ Family
Alex McKenna is a loner. In school she either acts out or cocoons herself away from the other students. At home she lives with an emotionally distant father, and was abandoned by her mother as an infant. Alex feels her deformed left hand is the reason for all of her problems. As a result, she keeps the hand and herself hidden.
This behavior comes to a head when Madison Shaw transfers into her high school. Alex becomes the target of Madison’s own misplaced anger and they bring out the worst in each other. After one too many confrontations, Alex is given the choice of either joining a club as an outlet for her anger or being placed in the alternative high school for problem students.
Nate McKenna assures the principal that his daughter will accompany him to work after school so he can “keep an eye on her” until she joins a club or a sport. His job as a video installer takes him all over town and on this particular day Alex meets him at the Appele Fencers Club. She is instantly mesmerized by the art of fencing. First by its beauty and grace, then by its power. Alex is convinced she’s found her sport. Her heart sinks when she overhears her father saying fencing is to ‘too aggressive for a kid like her and I won’t even let her try it out”. Nonetheless, Alex believes fencing is the answer. She discovers her school has a newly formed fencing team and decides to join. This will keep the principal of her back, she won’t be sent to the alternative high school, Nate will see how much she likes the sport, and most importantly, she’ll get to fence. It’s perfect. Alex’s dreams are smashed when she finds out Madison is the team’s star athlete.
Determined, Alex returns to Appele Fencers. Brooklyn Orensky, the owner of that club, sees the passion and natural talent in Alex and takes under her wing, assuring her that “one hand is all you need” to fence. She allows Alex to help out around the club in return for lessons. Unknown to Brooklyn, Alex keeps this a secret from her father, having told him she joined the math club and they meet after school. All is going well. Alex is accepted by her new club-mates and feels comfortable enough to expose her deformed hand. She excels as a fencer and even makes the team going to Junior Nationals. This new confidence carries over to school, where she starts to make friends. Her grades improve and she and Nate start to form a real relationship.
But then things fall apart. Emma Brighton, top dog at Appele, is jealous of Alex’s closeness to Brooklyn and of her clear and natural talent as a fencer. Emma goes out of her way to sabotage Alex, going so far as trying to get her thrown off the Nationals team. To Emma’s delight, Nate discovers Alex lied to him and refuses to let her fence at all, let alone go to Nationals.
Without fencing, Alex returns to her old ways. She acts out in school. She starts fights. She is once again angry with Nate. Her new friends come to the rescue, imploring Nate to let Alex fence. Nate gives in to them, not because he sees the light, but because he feels defeated. Alex would rather be with Brooklyn and the fencers than have anything to do with him. Alex happily returns to the club and goes with her teammates to Nationals.
Emma’s jealousy does not fade. At Nationals, she undermines Alex by exposing her fencing weaknesses to Madison, knowing they will face off in the competition. Alex will crumble and Emma will get to be the hero by carrying them on to victory. Madison and Alex run into each other before their bout. Madison wants to ‘psych her out’ and succeeds by telling Alex that Emma betrayed her, and the rest of the team “…only want you for creepy your hand. The directors don’t want to look bad by making calls against you. You’re like a dog with three legs. You get them the sympathy vote”. Shattered, Alex abandons the team even though they have fought so hard and are moments away from the gold medal bout against Madison and her team. Nate, finally stepping up as a father, arrives to the arena just as Alex disappears and Emma confesses to Brooklyn. Nate finds his daughter and convinces her to return. Everyone rallies around her, both on the fencing strip and off. Alex fences the bout of her life with family and friends cheering, and finally learns how to accept all the parts of herself.