This entry for the Sundance U.S. Dramatic Competition, a feature debut for Vuk Lungulov-Klotz, portrays an eventful day in the life of Fea, a recently transitioned Trans guy (played by artist and filmmaker Lio Mehiel).
Lungulov-Klotz skillfully condenses a lot of complicated theme material on gender identity, queer lifestyles, and ethnic intersectionality into one neatly wrapped package by drawing on his own experience of transition as well as his history as a child of Chilean and Serbian parents.
The finished product feels both genuine and approachable and, in part because of the ensemble’s strong performances, particularly Mehiel’s, has the potential to transcend the arthouse/festival circuit and reach viewers further afield, particularly through a streaming service.
Fea, who goes by the name Fernanda and is in his mid-20s, just started using testosterone and underwent top surgery. Because of his square jaw and punk faux-hawk of black curls, some strangers (primarily men) categorize him as a male right away, but other conversation partners gender him as a female, much to his disgust.
Fea’s Transition & Ex – Boyfriend
Fea is open enough about his transition to bring it up in a conversation with a bank employee while cashing a check that was made out in his deceased name. In any case, he isn’t constantly concerned with presenting as a man.
While being guarded about his privacy, he bridles in an early scene when Jenny, a buzzing young woman (Sarah Herrman) in a nightclub, inquires as to whether he has a penis (he doesn’t, but he clarifies that that’s not a topic she should ask). And sure, that deficiency in no way denotes that he is not a “genuine man.”
Jenny is actually the cousin of John (Cole Doman), Fea’s ex-boyfriend who is just as unover Fea as she is. They had an extremely messy breakup around the time Fea came out as Trans, it becomes apparent throughout the movie.
However, there is still a fundamental attraction between them both. After Jenny, the cousin, is returned to New Jersey, they end up in bed together. Both appear uncertain in the morning as to whether last night marked the end of the past or the start of something new, a feeling that everyone who has ever slept with an ex can understand.
Equation Between Fea & Zoe’s Mother
Fea, however, is too busy today to give it any thought because his father, Pablo (Alejandro Goic), who is visiting from Chile later that evening, will be arriving soon? When the friend who was supposed to lend him a car for the evening fails to show up, Fea is forced to hustle in an effort to show that he’s “not a fuck-up” who can’t keep his word and pick up Pablo from the airport.
Fea discovers his 14-year-old half-sister Zoe (MiMi Ryder, superb) has missed school that day and needs some support while passing by the restaurant where he works to pick up the aforementioned paycheck.
Dialogue makes it evident that Fea and Zoe’s mother (Lisa Knightly, recently seen) are no longer close, presumably due to differences over Fea’s transition.
John’s Remark on Fea
Nevertheless, Lungulov-story Klotz’s does not excuse its hero by having him attribute all of his troubled relationships to the transphobia of others. People don’t hate you because you’re Trans, they hate you because you’re an asshole, and John tells Fea during one of their heated exchanges.
We watch Fea continuously scrabbing favors from friends, messing up, and shoving people away before they can reject him, making his actions even more powerful than his words.
In a wonderful turn of events, Zoe skillfully dismisses Fea’s expectations that she will panic about her sibling’s Trans status by stating that it is not a huge concern because she has a transgender buddy at school. Gen Z wins the game, 1-0.
Naturally, the elder Pablo is less comfortable with his child’s shift, but even that conflict is handled delicately. Pablo is visibly heartbroken about the loss of the young girl he once knew and struggling to deal with his long period of absence from Fea’s life. But if only Fea would let him, he wants to bond with his kid.
Vuk Lungulov-Klotz and His Crew
Vuk Lungulov-Klotz and his crew opt for understated production values with little non-source music, easy rhythms provided by Editor Adam Dicterow, and warmly lit cinematography by Matthew Pothier that fluidly dances in and around the cast. This is clearly done in an effort to achieve the most authentic, naturalistic effect possible.
Long shots of their faces reveal everything Fea struggles to say because Mehiel’s acting in particular is so firmly grounded, emotive, and engaging to watch