This couldn’t be more respectful to this young transgender’s drama.
Trace Lysette is a transgender actress, who gives one of the best on-screen performances in “Monica,” a film too sentimental for her character Monica to even tell her dying mother who she really is. To clarify, her name isn’t really Monica, and she ran away from home as a teenager. But she comes back to help take care of her mother, who has fallen ill.
The movie, co-written and directed by Andrea Pallaoro and co-written by Orlando Tirado, doesn’t always use much dialogue, but rather than the emotions and dispositions. It took awhile for me to understand the situation, and I’m not sure if I completely understand it, but I have respect for the LGBTQIA community. If they can’t always speak out their minds, then I’m respectful of that. Maybe that’s what makes “Monica” a radiant movie. That and Lysette has internal and external beauty. She really is an actress with a soul inside.
Her mother Eugenia (Patricia Clarkson) doesn’t recognize her own daughter, given the time period of how long Monica was gone and her serious condition. And so, her daughter must introduce herself as her caregiver.
In the time of her absence, her brother Paul (Joshua Close) has started a family-a wife named Laura (Emily Browning) and three kids-and the husband and wife are both going through a rough patch at the moment. Monica is introduced to them.
Eugenia knows about Paul’s drama, and tries to remind him that whatever is happening, “family comes first.” It’s a poignant scene, especially the way Clarkson expresses her emotions through tones and complexity. And she also knows when to bring on the tears in her moments of sadness.
She is also given some support from an older caregiver named Leticia (Adriana Barraza), who gives Monica the ropes on her mother’s illness and what it’s like for her as a mother in her own personal life.
“Monica” is a film that knows when to be sentimental and when to be consistently honest. The title character has her sexual pleasures (which seems to arouse the LGBTQIA crowd I sat next to on last Friday’s screening), and her chance to reconnect with her family. Will she patch things up with her mother before it’s too late or will it drive her away again? I was asking those things during my viewing.
I have to be honest. This movie marks the first time I’ve heard of Trace Lysette. I didn’t recognize her in “Hustlers,” I’ve never watched “Transparent” when she guest starred on it, and so, I wouldn’t have known who she was. But after seeing “Monica,” I see her true colors.
Pallaoro and Orlando both write her character with realisms, especially by how, even today, people in specific groups can be discriminated. Even Clarkson admitted her dislike on that during the Q&A I attended. I responded that I like to use movies as escapisms, while acknowledging what is going on in our society.
And speaking of which, both she and Barraza both offer us some fine supporting work on respective terms. They both portray mothers who have their own aspects on parenting and how they’ve come to terms with them.
And in his filmmaking, Pallaoro directs “Monica” with the kind of vibrant and complex passion that feels like IFC Films made the right call of purchasing this movie. He knows how to film the title character and her pleasures and pathos, and he knows how to draw us into her life, as if we just met for the first time, and need patience in getting to know her and the family she left behind.
Now, this is a passionate piece about a beautiful woman, internally and externally.
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