Rating: (5 out of 5) [Critic’s Pick!] Saturday, 10/15/2011, 4:00 PM Feature presentation, $12 at Atlas Center for the Performing Arts German with English subtitles
MOVE OVER GAYS and lesbians. When it comes to telling the really gripping stories of the 21st century, good luck trying to top the transgender tales. Being gay and closeted can be compelling — especially in 1990. Being trans and closeted can be dizzying in its multiple layers of discrimination, emotion and medicine. Case in point: Romeos.
Lukas has arrived in the dorms to complete his year of ”civilian service” in Cologne. The bureaucratic error credited with his misplacement in women’s housing, however, is actually bureaucratic bigotry. And it’s just one of the hoops through which the college-age transman must jump. All of this on top of managing his own personal journey of transition.
Director Sabine Bernardi uses a technique for short Lukas monologues that have him recording Internet videos of himself for his online transman community. These help us stay in his corner as his anger – newly testosterone-fueled – tears apart a room, or his new male vanity leads him to ignore his closest ally, Ine. She is the next layer of Barnardi’s presentation of Lukas. Rick Okon as Lukas and Liv Lisa Fries as Ine are as tight as twins in their interplay, with Ine having dated Lukas’s former lesbian identity, Miri.
As we get beyond the video testimonials and Ine, we fear for Lukas as he enters so many scenes that leave us thinking, ”This will end badly.” There is a tension that grips us. It might not be Boys Don’t Cry, but there is still some dread. It’s intensified as Lukas gets too close to heartbreaking badboy Fabio (Maximilian Befort). But why are we so worried? Why should everything end badly?
Masterfully written and directed, Romeos offers an exploration of one fictional transman’s day-to-day that is beyond what most might imagine. And as we put ourselves in Lukas’s shoes, director Bernardi finds ways to also move a non-trans person to more deeply question his or her own understanding of gender identity. And sexuality. And humanity.
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