Red Seed Films, 2020
📷 : Used with permission, Red Seed Films
Movies/shows with heavy subjects
“Do you have any idea what it’s like holding back who you really are ‘cause of someone else’s fears?”
Frankie opens on the title character, a trans man, crashing his partner’s all-male support group meeting to vent his frustrations at him. The other members treat him with much hostility, as they feel their safe space to heal is being invaded. Though one might assume his scorn is at being rejected, Frankie’s true gripe is over his partner’s refusal to accept his new identity. Amidst the heckles and jeers of the other group members, he recounts the details of the fight that ended their relationship.
The meeting serves as a microcosm of many individuals’ emotional experience in the midst of a transition. As they try to find their voice and discover their true identity, they frequently get silenced or shouted down. There is a constant battle to get others to see them as who they are, not who they were. Frankie reveals that to be cruel, his partner dead-named him (a modern term for calling a trans person by the name they used before transitioning). Throughout his soliloquy, his partner will not even look him in the eye, a gesture that would signify acceptance of his change.
Director James Kautz does a brilliant job of using sound to create tension. It begins with Frankie in the hall outside the door, debating whether or not to go through with his plan. We can hear the other support group members’ echoing laughter on the other side of the door. Once Frankie enters, silence fills the room, and this contrast conveys their overwhelming discomfort. The group moderator uses a gentle tone, but the other members speak more sharply as they attempt to shoo him away. When Frankie is finally allowed to vent, a non-diegetic, quickening drum pattern accompanies the rise in his anger level before he stands up and yells.
The emotional depth of this short may bring to mind feature-length films such as 500 Days of Summer, Juno, or even The Story of Us. All three deal with a drastic change throwing relationship dynamics in flux. We see the protagonists processing their anger and confusion while simply trying to be heard.