Open: A Transgender Love Story For the 21st Century Queer

REVIEWS YOU CAN USE: Queerty’s at the Outfest LGBT film festival in LA covering the latest in queer indie flicks. This time, we look at Jake Yuzna’s modern day love story for the queer art set.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?: When Gen’s pandrogynous partner Jay leaves Minneapolis for a long trip, Gen spends time traveling the city with Cynthia, a young intersex person without a home. Concurrently, gay hipster Nick and transman Syd hook up at a bar and begin dating. Both relationships quickly get a lot more serious than anybody intended leaving everyone to question their hearts, identities, and futures together.

WHO’S IN IT?: While researching the film, director Jake Yuzna cast his interviewees to have authentically pandrogynous, intersex, queer, and transgender performers. This includes Gen and Jay (Tempest Crane and Jendeen Forberg), a couple who have had plastic surgeries and gender therapies to look like the mirror images of one another; a young intersex person Cynthia (Gaea Gaddy) who is unsure how to proceed with hir physical transformation and love life; and Syd (Morty Diamond), a real-life trans pornographer with a pussy. Yuzna then used his actors’ experiences to help inform his script.

IS IT ANY GOOD?: It won the Teddy Award for queer film at the Berlin Film Festival and for a good reason. Through a series of slow contemplative scenes with little dialogue or emotional fireworks, Yuzna slowly creates a gallery of startling portraits that radiate each character’s longing, confusion, and heartache. He also utilizes a gorgeous textural palette of alternately hot and cool colors to tell each half of the story and does a good job alienating viewers from everyday scenes — rendering a landscape of dangerous art galleries, romantic parking garages, intimate quarries, and disquieting rooftops.

WHAT’S BAD ABOUT IT?: Though I commend Yuzna for wanting to tell an ultimately human story using authentically trans performers, his cast aren’t the strongest actors. Their deadpan performances along with his slow-moving script — with its minimal dialogue and wandering plot — relegate his film to the queer cinema rather than the mainstream movie house. He also fails to make their trans love seem universal because there’s so little personal ground for viewers to connect with on a deeper emotional level.

FUN FACT: Director Yuzna admits, “When I was 17 or so, I became active in the homocore scene in the Midwest. It was a place where punk and queer culture overlapped. A lot of people who didn’t fit in anywhere else found a home there. Through this I met a lot of transmen, and I began to wonder what it would be like to have a child with a transman. At the same time I’ve always been interested in alternatives to conventional society and culture. From the situationist international to COUM transmissions. Groups and artists who are exploring other options of living and being. I wanted to create a film that showcased this diversity of humanity. Both the people who are still living in the fringes of culture, as well as those exploring new frontiers of love, sex, and identity.”

RATING: Three out of five translucent fabrics: It’s an arty and heady film filled with beautiful images and a startling illustrations of the fluidity of gender, identity, and desire. Its scenes will stay with you long after you leave the theater.