Transgender subjects are getting more popular in LGBT features now that gay characters have been more and more normalized in mainstream movies. They have even invaded the gay documentary genre as seen in the recent film TRANSFORMER about a transgendered weight lifter.
VENUS tells the tale of Sid (Debargo Sanyal), a South Asian (Punjabi origin) transitioning woman whose life is turned upside down when Ralph (Jamie Mayers), the “white” 14 year-old biological son she never knew she had, shows up unexpectedly at her door. And repeatedly at the door daily. “Wreck-It-Ralph” is about to create havoc in Sid’s life. Shot in Montreal, the upbeat film also deals with the hardship of transition and how it affects family and friends.
Sid is under pressure to marry a nice Indian girl and raise a family. His East Indian mother (Vancouver’s Zeena Daruwalla) yearns to have grandchildren. Her dreams are about to come true, but not in the way she ever imagined. When Sid comes out as a woman, a 14 year old boy named Ralph shows up at her door announcing that Sid is his parent. Although surprised to discover that his biological dad is now a woman, Ralph thinks having a transgender parent is pretty cool (a way director Eisha Marjara is also saying her film is as cool as her subject). But Ralph has not told his mother and stepfather that he had tracked down his biological father.
Another problem is Sid’s boyfriend Daniel (Pierre-Yves Cardinal), who has yet to tell his family of his relationship with Sid. Daniel is nowhere near ready to accept Ralph as a stepson and complicate his life further. Sid’s coming out creates a snowball effect that forces everyone out of the closet.
With so many stories, director Marjara surprisingly balances the importance of each effectively culminating the film in a credible yet dramatic climax.
Director Marjara’s spirit and confidence in her subject and movie are catching. These are evident in a scene in the film’s middle when Sid and Ralph take a walk in a park. They come across a group dancing in the park. Ralph joins in as Sid tries to pull him back while feeling uncomfortable. Sid eventually dances with the group. The scene shifts into slow motion and the catchy tune and fancy dance moves take the audience up a higher level in entertainment. The film’s overall soundtrack is pretty good as well. There is even a song called “Sisters in the Struggle” by a group called Lesbians in Ecstasy.
Sid’s parents provide quite a few of the laugh-of loud moments. But Sid’s facial expressions are also funny enough to evoke much laughter.
Besides the comedy, the film gets quite serious too, at the end. Credit to the script (also written by Marjara) for the non-Hollywood ending.
VENUS has won numerous awards on the international film circuit, including most recently two awards at the 2018 Kiel Transgender Film Festival in Germany for Best Trans Performance (Debargo Sanyal) and Best Actor non-trans role (Jamie Mayers), as well as Best Narrative Feature at the 2018 Cinequest Film Festival in San Jose. The film is an uplifting crowd pleaser.