Few début films pack as much narrative punch and impressive technique than Jake Yuzna’s wonderfully moody story of love amongst those who feel so uncomfortable in their “God-given” skin that they embrace all modern science has to change sex, body features or both.
The deliberately slow pace and frequent pauses give viewers the too-seldom trusted advantage of reflecting on situations as they unfold rather than waiting for a post mortem following the credits.
Not since XXY (cross-reference below) has there been such a compelling portrayal of a hermaphrodite trying to make sense of feelings and desires deep inside even as the outer landscape begins its irreversible transformation. Playing Cynthia, Gaea Gaddy turns in a marvellously creative performance that spans the entire spectrum of emotions save and except for unbridled joy.
Two of her friends are having highly specialized surgery so that their bodies will come as close as possible to being twins: cut exactly from the same cloth so as to be more literally at one with each other. As the film opens following the latest appointment at the clinic (where the resultant bandages can’t help but evoke a resonance with The Invisible Man), Jay (Jendeen Forberg) makes a quick exit to attend an unexpected family tragedy, leaving the love or her life, Gen (Tempest Crane), briefly home alone.
Finally having the courage to leave her computer-enslaved husband, Cynthia lands on Gen’s doorstep and the pair begin an in-town road movie (Minneapolis/St. Paul) that will lead to a host of revelations and confessions that threaten to have dire consequences for both. Crane makes for an ideal guide, totally understanding the terrors (present and future) for her soon smitten companion and sage enough to allow Matt Carlson’s and Adam Olson’s cinematography let the images speak for themselves and deftly balance the turmoil that erupts from her constant companion.
Running in parallel (intriguingly close but never truly intersecting) is the love-at-first-sight of Nick (Daniel Ludetke has the requisite mix of passion and innocence but needs further experience to let the dialogue flow more naturally) and Syd (a well-nuanced performance by Morty Diamond). Despite both sporting manly looking stubble, a closer examination honestly reveals the final phases of the latter’s testosterone treatments have not fully run their course, permitting a relationship challenging plot twist that is bound to spark debate on a whole range of life issues.
To reinforce the mood and add discreet commentary all on its own (when one of the couples seem to have come to terms with their future, the triad-outline motif adds repeated notes to double its previously singular form), the original score (provided by Adult: Adam Lee Miller and Nicola Kuperus) is extremely effective (not least of which the piano tracks, where the tone sounds decidedly like a tired church basement instrument, curiously adding to the otherworldliness of the music; a spot of dissonance is aurally at one with Cynthia’s humiliation). Better still, the instrumental background is used sparingly, allowing the viewer—once again—to silently savour the solitude of the many personal moments.
The largely unseen (but heard) children add to the atmosphere—the wide-eyed silent dolls are another effective thematic device.
“The transition doesn’t solve anything,” offers Gen during one of the urban sleepovers. True enough, but in Yuzna’s creative hands it’s a journey well worth taking. JWR