Frances (Lindsey Weiss) has just had her first period, and it’s more traumatic than she imagined it would be. With Dad out of the picture and Mom deceased, Frances is being raised by her older, transgender brother Michael (Jackson Katz), who is still going through the hormone therapy and other transitional steps. As she struggles to understand and accept Michael’s changes, Frances must also come to terms with the changes happening to her.
Ricardo Lorenzo’s short film Transparent captures a rough transition point in life, and expands it to envelop both younger and older sibling in their unique scenarios to make a grander statement about family, acceptance and change. It’s also entertaining and fun, and for all the emotional moments it contains, doesn’t read as false of melodramatic.
Because most of those emotional outbursts and moments happen for a young woman who has just had her first period, and is navigating her teenage years; this is puberty, Frances could just as easily be losing her mind over… well, anything. She still loves Michael, but having a transgender brother makes her family different, and “different” for a teenager can seem like a big problem. Unintended hurt, and undeserved ire, are the name of the game for the teen years, unfortunately.
But this film knows that, and the strong bedrock winds up being Michael, whose transition and internal changes are parallel with Frances’ own, even if Frances hasn’t grasped that yet. Michael actually went through everything Frances is going through now, and thus there is an understanding that comes not just from maturity, but also shared experiences. Still, Michael is also being asked to fill a role, as parent, that is one of the toughest challenges out there.
I think they’ll do okay, though, and I appreciate that the film let the situation and timing do the dramatic lifting without feeling like it needed to add too much more on top of it. It’s a glimpse at a family dynamic that might not be considering “normal” (whatever that means), but it’s also a respectful one that doesn’t trivialize anyone’s journey for the sake of overly-contrived drama. It’s a tale of personal and physical changes and acceptance, and I’m sure it’s one that the characters in this film will repeat, in differing ways in other situations, for some time.
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