Review by Tom Avila
Rating: (4 out of 5) [Critic’s Pick!]
Saturday, 10/17/2009, 3:00 PM
Feature presentation, $10 at Goethe Institut Inter Nationes
PRODIGAL SONS MAKES great use of something that is rapidly vanishing from the practice of documentary filmmaking: the unexpected. At times it actually seems to not be the story Kimberly Reed — the director and trans-woman at its center — expected to be telling.
Reed was once high-school football hero Paul McKerrow. Tall, blonde and handsome, Paul was that guy. The guy that, as the saying goes, other guys wanted to be and girls wanted to be with.
The guy that Paul never felt comfortable being.
A high school reunion has brought Reed and her adopted brother Marc back to Montana where Reed will be meeting her old classmates for the first time as Kim.
Over the course of just 86-minutes Sons unpacks a complex and sometimes violent family story that includes sibling rivalry, mental illness, and, in one of its strangest turns, director Orson Wells and actress Rita Hayworth.
But Prodigal Sons is not a film about old Hollywood, nor is it about the struggle of transitioning and trying to go home again. That high school reunion is a catalyst but it is not the story’s core.
Prodigal Sons is a film about acceptance and the ways that life sometimes asks us to recast and reinvent that deceptively simple word. It also reminds us that the need for acceptance is something that extends far beyond the LGBT community.
Reed deserves great credit for crafting a film that manages to be personal without being narcissistic. Thoughtful without devolving into pretentious meditation. Intimate without becoming claustrophobic.
Perhaps most impressive and refreshing, Reed does not purport to have come to some great conclusion at the end of this portion of her journey. After all, you never know what life will be throwing at you next.