DVD Review - Romeos

Romeo is the name from one of Shakespeare's greatest tragedies. Romeo now has come to signify the ideal male lover. The title of this movie is plural because it presents two ideal male lovers. Both in various ways defy and conform to the traditional perception. It could be dismissed as just another LGBT film, full of romantic drama. It shouldn't be though because unlike so many films I've seen recently, if not all my life, this one shows us not only what the ideal male lover looks like but also what the ideal male looks like, while at the same time shattering that ideal. Yet, it does so in a very sexy and sweet fashion.

What's ironic is that we get this ideal male lover picture from a woman. Sabine Bernadi is a female film director who studied politics and filmmaking in Germany. Her movie centers on Lukas, a 20-year-old, transgendered boy. Lukas identifies as FTM or female-to-male. Lukas was born a girl named Miri, but he has done everything to hide that fact. When we first meet him, he's giving himself a syringe injection in his leg, his 25th injection. It's assumed to be hormones, the testosterone needed for transgender people wanting to become men. He wears clothing to hide his breasts and has an exercise regimen so strict that he even measures the muscle development on his arse.

The Emmy-nominated documentary Becoming Chaz, which is about the child of music duo Sonny and Cher, known now as Chaz Bono, introduced us to some of the real-world concerns of a transgendered male, but Chaz is older than Lukas and it felt as if Chaz were a man more settled and comfortable with his transition. This was probably in part because Chaz was in a relationship with someone who loved him, not only for himself but also for what he was.

Lukas doesn't have that. He doesn't have someone who loves him like that. The question is will he. Chaz found someone who was there for him before the transition and continued with him. For a transgendered person who has already gone through the entire process as portrayed in the Showtime TV movie Soldier's Girl (2003) or the short-lived TV series Dirty Sexy Money, the burden is less, but, for someone like Lukas who is in between, neither the caterpillar nor the butterfly, he harbors a great burden.

Rick Okon stars as Lukas and he gives an impressive performance. He wears that burden so well. He is a person that's stuck in between and Okon makes us feel that. The fear and anxiety come through so abundantly. There's also a frustration, a frustration of being found out but generally of being something that he's not and physically not being able to be who he is. For a young FTM, it's difficult to convey that frustration but Okon and this movie is probably the best expression of it that you'll ever get.

Maximilian Befort co-stars as Fabio, a boy about Lukas' age who appears to be of Italian descent but living in Cologne, Germany. Fabio meets Lukas when Fabio drives Lukas and his two friends, Ine, played by Liv Lisa Fries, and Sven, played by Felix Brocke, to a party. It's a party that's all about pairs and Lukas is the odd man out. Fabio is the opposite. He flexes his muscle in his car and does so again at the party, attracting everyone so effortlessly. He's identified as the alpha, the specimen of young, virile manliness.

Lukas becomes interested in Fabio, but there is a confusion over whether Lukas wants to be with Fabio or if he just wants to be Fabio. Lukas skirts the line of desire and envy. He's either one or the other. For a transgendered person, it is perhaps the being of both at once. Lukas' eye, as Bernadi's camera, is constantly studying Lukas and Fabio's forms. Their bodies are often depicted in intimate detail, and if there's one thing that fascinates the eye and the camera here, it's their body hair. From the strands on his leg to the growths under his arm, on his chin and the thickness on his brow, Lukas is constantly studying his evolving state as well as the steady, shirtless and one-time naked state of Fabio, almost as a basis of comparison.

It's a wonder whether being a man means having body hair. Or, does being a man merely mean possessing certain parts or not possessing certain parts? Like Chaz Bono, the major source of concern are the breasts and getting rid of them. The clear response is that you can't be a man with boobs. Yet, I feel like this movie is proof that you can.

Documentaries like Olive Demetrius and Hanifah Walidah's U People or Christopher Hines' The Butch Factor have debated this point, but this movie is not really about what it takes to be a man on the exterior. This movie is a love story. Much in the same as Transamerica (2005) or Gun Hill Road (2011), this movie tells that particular love story through the lens of someone whose role is undefined or is in flux. It's about loving the chrysalis.

Five Stars out of Five.
Not Rated But Recommended for Mature Audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 36 mins.
In German With English Subtitles.


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