Together with her enigmatically titled Girl Of… (Kobieta z..), Malgorzata Szumowska returns from the magical satire of By no means Gonna Snow Once more to trenchant social realism, recounting a journey lasting half a lifetime, of sacrifice, sorrow and resilience.
Written and directed in collaboration with common cinematographer and artistic companion Michal Englert, it is a uncommon close-up of an older trans girl making powerful selections in a majority Catholic nation that is still legislatively and socially hostile. The movie’s compassionate gaze and stirring performances make it an illuminating window into gender recognition in an unaccommodating atmosphere.
The Backside Line
Not all the time the smoothest, however probing and heartfelt.
Like many dramas centered on a extremely particular neighborhood and developed out of in depth interviews, Girl Of… doesn’t totally escape the texture of a representational venture that ticks all of the required containers in a not totally seamless narrative. Nevertheless, that doesn’t make it any much less honest or shifting, not solely within the principal character’s decided path by hardship to non-public emancipation, however within the various levels of gradual acceptance by the individuals she loves.
There could also be some resistance amongst LGBTQ gatekeepers to the casting of a cis girl in the principle function. However the administrators level out that appearing colleges in Poland stay strictly binary. Trans advisors consulting on the venture reportedly agreed that the half demanded an skilled actress, additionally as a protecting measure towards the potential stigmatization that might observe such public publicity.
Trans and non-binary individuals had been concerned in growing characters and are given visibility onscreen in pleasing scenes that time up the very important function of help teams.
Solidarity is echoed within the political backdrop, too, with the unionization and staff’ rights motion of that identify, which hastened the shift from an oppressive regime to a democratic authorities, depicted right here in a celebratory 1989 road march.
The movie’s title is meant to evoke the Andrzej Wajda movies Man of Iron and Man of Marble, charting the rise of the labor motion. Transformation thereby turns into a twin theme, even when ongoing homophobia and transphobia imply that equal freedoms will not be prolonged to everybody.
The script shuffles the timeline at first, beginning with glimpses from the protagonist’s childhood and youth. Nonetheless presenting as male in these youthful years and recognized by the start identify Andrzej, the function is performed from adolescence with androgynous sensuality, a sheath of blond hair and stay currents of sexual vitality by Mateusz Wieclawek.
The eye-grabbing opening has a bunch of excitable younger ladies in mid-flight by a bucolic subject, shouting Andrzej’s identify and jeering after the child has run off in one among their First Holy Communion veils and scrambled up a tree. It then jumps to reedy teenage Andrzej’s bodily examination for army service, the place painted toenails show a blessing in disguise, even when they invite ridicule.
Bathed in heat pure mild and making evocative use of slow-motion, the visible aesthetic feeds a vibrant, erotically charged portrait of the early years of the protagonist’s romance with and eventual marriage to free-spirited nurse Iza (performed first by Bogumila Bajor and later by Joanna Kulig, the revelation of Pawel Pawlikowski’s Chilly Conflict). Their union produces two kids.
The administrators’ realizing placement of movie show banners for Fairly Girl and The Double Lifetime of Veronique makes wry acknowledgement of the principle character’s first experiments with gender expression because the motion jumps a bit awkwardly from 2004 again to 1989 after which 1992. Identified with low testosterone by a smarmy physician who advises some sizzling escort intercourse, Andrzej confesses to feeling “this pull to the opposite aspect.” However within the years that observe, the looks of a mustache and a extra masculine haircut counsel resistance to that pull.
The vast majority of the story unfolds from 2004 to the current, with Malgorzata Hajewska-Krzysztofik getting into the central function, step by step changing into often known as Aniela. Selecting to heart the drama on a lady transitioning in middle-age in a gossipy provincial city provides significantly to the pathos of what turns into a drama of braveness and survival.
Aniela’s furtive analysis into gender id in overseas magazines and at an web café results in a irritating odyssey of medical and authorized appointments that map out the daunting bureaucratic hurdles standing between any Polish trans particular person and superior hormone remedy or surgical procedure.
Iza turns into conscious of her husband’s transitional course of solely after discovering a pocket book documenting 15 years of private expertise. Divorce is a authorized requirement, inflicting her to turn into damage and offended. However as a lot as a person character research, the actual energy of Girl Of… is as an unconventional love story. Iza’s gradual thaw as she comes round to accepting the particular person on the heart of her life for many years is the place the movie attracts a lot of its emotional energy.
Kulig is sort of fantastic at conveying the push-pull of a wedding upended however a mutual devotion that endures. Iza’s rising openness has a touching ripple impact on others, like Aniela’s brother Marek (Jacek Braciak), and in the long run, even her bitter mother and father, whose wholesale rejection of her for years is only one of many stings. The extra nuanced responses of Iza and Aniela’s kids yield some pretty moments, even when these relationships are under-developed.
With out histrionics or massive speeches, and with delicate gradations of bodily transformation, the exceptional Hajewska-Krzysztofik builds a quietly heroic characterization as Aniela, marked by uncooked vulnerability that nonetheless hides fortitude and unapologetic dignity within the face of each humiliation or injustice that’s thrown at her.
And there are many each — being conveniently job-eliminated and refused housing, drifting into intercourse work and going through a disproportionate jail sentence from an unashamedly prejudiced decide for a small-time offense. Merely being instructed by a visiting priest in jail that she will not be dwelling within the reality represents its personal type of imprisonment.
Szumowska and Englert know higher than to tie issues up too neatly given the persevering with absence of legal guidelines on gender recognition in Poland. However the tenderness and sensitivity of their concluding scenes resonate to make this an affecting portrait of hope and hard-won self-knowledge that might even assist transfer the needle on LGBTQ rights in one of many European Union’s most stubbornly illiberal member states.