The Sundance US Drama Competition entrant paints with honesty, tenderness and wit an eventful day in New York City in the life of Feña, a transgender person who recently transitioned (Lio Mehiel, a artist and filmmaker), which is a feature-length debut for Vuk Lungulov-Klotz.
Drawing on her background as a child of Chilean and Serbian parents and her own transition experiences, Lugulov-Klotz deftly distills many complex thematic material around gender identity, queer lifestyles, and intersectionality , a neatly folded package. The end result feels authentic and accessible, and – thanks in part to the ensemble’s riveting performances, especially Mehiel’s – has the potential to span the gallery/festival circuit and reach audiences farther afield, especially via streaming Serve.
Bottom Line Most One of the good movies about post-transition adjustments.
Place:Sundance Film Festival(American Drama Competition)
Actor: Lio Mehiel, Cole Doman, Mimi Ryder, Alejandro Gojic, Jacey Chase Owens, Jerry Jones, Mimi Ryder, Jerry Jones, Ben Gro , Sarah Hellman, Naomi Asa, Desmond Confoy, Owen Lachine, Lisbeth Van Zoren, Charles Falkowitz, Talia Skolnick , Gareth Smit
Director/Screenwriter: Vuk Lungulov-Klotz 1 hour 27 minutes
in his middle 14 , Feña, whose real name is Fernanda, recently started testosterone and had top surgery. So it annoys him that some strangers will instantly recognize him as male (mostly) due to his square jaw and fake hawk look of black curly hair, while other interlocutors will gender him as female . Either way, Feña doesn’t hang on to his masculinity all the time, and gets fed up with his transgenderness during an altercation with a bank clerk while cashing in a paycheck that bears his late name.
Meanwhile, he guards his privacy and throws a tantrum in an early scene when Jenny (Sarah Herrman), a distraught young woman in a nightclub, asks him if he Has a penis (he doesn’t, but that’s not the question she should be asking, he explains). No, that lack doesn’t mean he’s not a “real man.”
As it happens, Jenny is the cousin of Feña’s ex-boyfriend John (Cole Doman), who loves Feña as much as Feña loves him. Throughout the film, it’s clear that around the time Feña came out as trans, their split was pretty messed up. Still, they are fundamentally attracted to each other. They slept together after Cousin Jenny was sent back to New Jersey. In the morning, neither seemed unsure whether last night was the end of something old or the beginning of something new, as anyone who has slept with an ex feels that way.
However, Feña doesn’t have time to dwell on this, as he has a lot to do today in preparation for his father Pablo’s (Alejandro Goic) arrival later that evening, a visit from Chile. Determined to prove that he “isn’t an asshole,” Feña can’t keep his promise to pick Pablo up from the airport, and is forced to sprint down the road when a friend who plans to lend him a car for the night tells him to leave.
While stopping by the restaurant where he worked to collect the aforementioned paycheck, Feña spotted his 14- Year-old half-sister Zoe (Mimi Ryder, excellent) skipped school that day and needs some support. The dialogue makes it clear that Feña is estranged from her and Zoe’s co-mother (Lisa Knightly, just seen), possibly because of disagreements about Feña’s transformation.
Still, Lungulov-Klotz’s script doesn’t have the protagonist blame all his volatile relationships on other people’s transphobia. At one point during an argument, John said to Feña that “people don’t hate you because you’re trans; they hate you because you’re an asshole.” People had a chance to turn them down before they turned him down. In one beautiful moment, Zoe dismisses Fenya’s assumption that she would be intimidated by her siblings being trans, and Zoe effectively says, well, she knows, she has a transgender at school. Friends, it’s no big deal. Go 1-0 for Gen Z.
Unsurprisingly, the elder Pablo is less reassured by the child’s change, but even this confrontation is sensitive. Pablo clearly grieves for the little girl he once knew and feels guilty for being absent from Faena’s life for so long. But he wants to bond with his children, as long as Feña allows it.
Clearly, Vuk Lungulov-Klotz and his team strived for the most authentic and natural results possible, with understated production values, almost no non-source music, simple rhythms provided by editor Adam Dicterow and Ma Matthew Pothier’s warmly lit cinematography dances fluidly in and around the actors.
Mehiel’s performance is especially grounded, expressive and engaging, so much so that the film doesn’t need any other bells and whistles — the long shots of their faces say everything Feña struggles to express.
Full credits 27
Venue: Sundance Film Festival (US Drama Competition) Cast: Lio Mehiel, Cole Doman, Mimi Ryder, Alejandro Goic, Jasai Chase Owens, Jari Jones, MiMi Ryder, Jari Jones, Ben Groh, Sarah Herrman, Naomi Asa, Desmond Confoy, Owen Laheen, Lizbeth Van Zoelen, Charles Falkowitz, Talya Skolnik, Gareth Smit Production companies: Strange Animal Entertainment, Mongoose Picture House, Aspire Studios, Lucky 27 Productions
Director/Screenwriter: Vuk Lungulov-Klotz Producers: Alexander Stegmaier, Stephen Scott Scarpulla, Vuk Lungulov-Klotz, Jennifer Kuczaj, Joel Michaely
Executive Producer: Silas Howard , Andrew Carlberg, Sarah Herrman, Hannah Kettering Director of Photography: Matthew Pothier Production Designer: Alann a Murray Costume Design: Elena Lark Editor: Adam Dicterow Sound Designer: Ash Knowlton Music: James William Blades, Taul Katz
Sales: CAA Media Finance
1 hour 27 minutes THR Newsletter
Sign up for THR News DAILY
27 SUBSCRIBE REGISTER
Sales: CAA Media Finance
1 hour 27 minutes THR Newsletter