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July 13, 2012

Romeos

by Franz Patrick


Romeos (2011)
★★★ / ★★★★

Lukas (Rick Okon) had been mistakenly placed to live in a residential hall full of female nurses, an error that Lukas did not appreciate because he was a pre-op transgender transitioning from female to male. Since the neighboring all-boys building next door did not have an extra room, Lukas was forced to live with the girls until a space opened up. Ine (Liv Lisa Fries), a proud lesbian and Frank’s best friend before his decision to transition, happened to live in the building. She decided that it would do Lukas some good to make new friends so they decided to go to a party. They were picked up by Fabio (Maximilian Befort), an alpha male homosexual who was out with his friends but not with his parents. Lukas wanted to pursue Fabio but he had to hold himself back because of what was underneath his multilayered clothes. “Romeos,” written and directed by Sabine Bernadi, is for people who wish to understand what being a transgender or a transsexual means. The best sections of the film featured the rituals that Lukas had to immerse himself in order to pass as a man. While we saw the shots of testosterone that Lukas had to inject into his leg, there were also implied habits like orally ingesting drugs so that his body would be prepared for the eventual operation. But it wasn’t just about the chemistry that went on inside his body. The camera was used as a magnifying glass by showing the hair on his legs and armpits, his determination to bulk up to look more like a guy, the type of clothing he wore to hide his breasts, and the way he would force his posture in such a way that his walk would reflect that of a typical male. There was emphasis on our protagonist’s hard work which, hopefully, would make us a bit more sympathetic for something a lot of us take for granted. Feelings of shame was another important component. For example, when Lukas stood by a doorway and saw girls whispering about something, he would feel insecure because perhaps they could tell that he didn’t have all the qualifications of a man. When it wasn’t other people, sometimes the enemy was himself. He would look in the mirror and, in a way, couldn’t relate to what he was seeing: in his mind he was a male but his body was that of a female’s. Okon’s performance was critical to the film’s believability and he played Lukas with grace. It’s a compliment of the highest order when I begin to wonder if the actor is essentially playing himself or herself in the role. It seemed like Okon really understood what it was like to yearn to be in the right body and having to hide for not having it. The picture wasn’t afraid to deliver the realities of heartbreak not just in terms of finding romance but the overall feeling of being accepted by people who matter. There was honesty in the revelations and I admired that the material allowed its characters to be so flawed at times that we became angry with them for not being, for instance, an ideal friend when it really mattered. However, there was hope, too. Just because a person wasn’t there or didn’t understand when he or she was needed, it didn’t mean that they wouldn’t or couldn’t be a good friend later on. The filmmakers underlined the fact that we’re all learning something. We just have to be open. However, the film could’ve done less with Lukas and Fabio’s romantic relationship. Sometimes watching them interact was like going through a bad break-up over and over again. A handful of their melodramatic scenes severely diminished the power of an otherwise excellent material. “Romeos” was also about prejudice. There’s no denial that there’s prejudice between the straight community and the LGBT community, but it’s foolish to believe that there’s no prejudice within the latter. Sometimes watching discrimination that happens in our community hurts more. Since we have similar struggles, shouldn’t we have each other’s back? Still, as long as we remain open, we’re learning.

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