Review by Will O’Bryan
Rating: (4 out of 5) [Critic’s Pick!]
Saturday, 10/18/2008, 1:00 PM
Feature presentation, $ at Goethe Institut Inter Nationes
GIRL INSIDE GETS off to a slow, Trans 101 start — which is surprising, since filmmaker Maya Gallus plans to cover three years in 70 minutes. So we start with a transgender primer, presented in casual conversation between Madison, a Canadian trans-woman in her mid 20s who is transitioning, and her apple-martini-loving grandmother, Vivien.
As Gallus gets to better know her subjects, however, Girl Inside becomes more intimate. We see the initially progressive-seeming Vivien become more critical around the edges as Madison’s transition progresses. While the grandmother’s critiques are no more than a slight disappointment, Gallus’ investment in Madison’s journey returns emotional gold. As flies on the wall, we’re allowed, for example, to be in the room as Madison reunites with her brother for the first time since starting her transition. The New Brunswick brother seems the sort who might impregnate a Palin daughter, with his backward baseball cap, beer bottle, baggy jeans and jersey — making his acceptance of the transition that much dearer.
Gallus also achieves a cinematic masterstroke in a scene transposing Madison, as the outwardly male Matthew, skydiving, with scenes of Madison’s gender-reassignment surgery. No more description may be offered for fear of lessening its impact, but it’s a scene that will easily rank among the strongest in the entire festival.
Girl Inside takes a slow and steady approach in its dedication to following this young woman through all the turmoil and reward of her transitioning. Ever wondered how much it costs to trim down one’s Adam’s apple, or how much it might hurt? Want to know a little more about transphobic job discrimination or a trans woman’s hormone regimen? Or how good parents react to a child’s transition? (Madison’s endeargin dad jokes, for example, ”I’m glad she’s got the balls to do it while she’s still got ’em.”) Girl Inside delivers on all counts, and then some.