Pride Month this year feels a little different. As anti-LGBTQ+ legislation threatens the lives and safety of queer people across the US, it’s difficult to feel like any of the progress made in the last few decades will continue. As the rights of my trans siblings to exist publicly are being violently taken away, I’ve found it healing to engross myself in queerness. Queer love, joy, and resilience will be our strengths as we fight back against those threatened by our presence. Even as 2023 sees a violent increase in anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments and laws, the urgency and resistance of our community will only grow stronger.
Director: Vuk Lungulov-Klotz
Release Date: August 18, 2023 (Limited)
In these difficult moments, it’s easy to see only the bad things. But there are still so many things to be happy about! I’ve always looked forward to new queer films, especially ones not inherently centered on trauma and tragedy. This week I had the chance to check out Mutt, a trans film by trans filmmaker Vuk Lungulov-Klotz at NewFest Pride in NYC.
Mutt follows Feña (Lío Mehiel) throughout a whirlwind 24 hours of his life. The film opens with him at a club with his friends the night before his dad, Pablo (Alejandro Goic), arrives in the city and sees him for the first time post-transition. At the club, Feña runs into his ex-boyfriend John (Cole Doman), and the two later hook up.
As if things couldn’t get messier for Feña, his younger half-sister makes an appearance. Zoe (MiMi Ryder) skipped school and is avoiding their transphobic mom. She accompanies Feña as he scrambles to find a car to pick Pablo up from the airport, and the two traverse across Brooklyn together. After running into John yet again, Feña manages to convince him to let Feña borrow his car.
Feña drops Zoe back off at their mother’s house and heads out to pick up Pablo. The two struggle to connect as Pablo can’t quite wrap his head around Feña’s transition, but the two finally reconcile after Feña and John fight about their past relationship.
While Mutt‘s plot is rather straightforward, the meat of the story comes from Feña’s relationships with people from his past as they come into his present. This reconciling of a past “self” with a “self” that is more true is something that most trans people can relate to. And Feña certainly feels this. It’s the scene he has with John in the laundromat, where he lets his ex trace his top surgery scars, or how he talks to Zoe about periods. Feña’s changed, and his own comfort in his gender and sexuality is something that he cannot force understanding in other people. What I loved so much about Mutt is that Feña is allowed to be a normal guy; angry and messy and craving love from the people he cares most about.
Mutt‘s love of Feña’s transness is mirrored by its love of its NYC setting. Feña’s interactions with perfect strangers, hopping the turnstile, and waiting for the subway all reflect the reality of living in a place that is so big and dense, yet despite those facts you always seem to run into someone you know. The cinematography grounds Feña in the city, with gorgeous shots of Brooklyn that romanticizes the city while still being truthful about its ruthlessness.
As with some indie films, the dialogue feels a bit clunky at times. It was never enough to pull me out of my enjoyment of the film, and thankfully it didn’t lean into Feña having to explain every little thing about being a trans man. Some of the conversations Feña has, particularly with Zoe and his final conversation with John, felt so honest and raw in a way that only a trans person could have written.
Mutt did a wonderful job bringing audiences into Feña’s world. We learn so much about him within such a small amount of time, and while he’s not a perfect person, (but really, who is?) his experiences emulate those of so many queer people, me included. As this is Vuk Lungulov-Klotz’s debut feature, I’m impressed by his ability to create such a dynamic person who is so much more than his identity in a world where trans identities are becoming even more politicized. And I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what Lungulov-Klotz and Lío Mehiel do next!
Mutt releases in limited theaters August 18th.