In 2018, A Fantastic Woman (Sebastián Lelio, 2017) became the second transgender-themed film in the Oscar race after Almodovar’s All About My Mother (1999), which won the Academy Award to Best Foreign Film in 2000. Hilary Swank, two-time Academy Award winner, also starred as a transgender man in Boys Don’t Cry (Kimberly Peirce, 1999). Felicity Huffman, from Desperate Housewives, also played a transgender woman in Transamerica (Duncan Tucker, 2005), in another Oscar-worthy performance. Venus (Eisha Marjara, 2017) is the clear heir of all the works above mentioned, and conveys the message that love has nothing to do with gender and identity.
Sid is a transgender woman. One day a 14-year-old boy named Ralph shows up at her front door out of the blue and claims that Sid is his biological father. Sid is not the only one surprised, Ralph is also in shock about finding out about Sid’s female identity. Ralph has kept his mother and stepfather in the dark about the search for his biological father. At the same time, Sid also has a boyfriend who has not told her family about her. Considering herself as Venus, Sid not only has to make people around her closer together, but also build a diverse family within the terms of gender, generations and her Indian culture.
In this film, Venus stands for the planet, which symbolizes Sid’s unique identity beyond this world. It also refers to the Goddess of femininity in connection with Sid’s identity. However, when she confronts her conservative Indian family, or even random people, she has to carefully hide her true self and act like as a cis man in order to be accepted by the public. The presence of Ralph allows her to confront her fears and self-depreciation and walk out of her house confidently as herself. Ralph feels neglected at home. He desperately needs someone who is willing to take care of him, and his unique biological father naturally is the one.
Besides gender issues, the film also tackles racial integration through Sid’s Indian identity. To Sid, Ralph frankness and blind acceptance make her feel heartwarming for the first time. In contrast, Sid’s mother does not want to admit her female identity, and Sid’s boyfriend, even though he eventually accepts Ralph, he still does not dare to reveal his relationship with Sid in public. Sid’s father is her only support.
Debargo Sanyal stars as Venus. His performance is filled with passion, steady yet humorous, which totally expresses Sid’s longing for being accepted. Jamie Mayers, a child star, successfully conveyed Ralph’s charm. Pierre-Yves Cardinal stars as an easygoing guy afraid of coming out. Gordon Warnecke stars as Sid’s father. He is mostly remembered for play Omar in the gay film My Beautiful Laundrette (Stephen Frears, 1985), where he shared a passionate scene with Daniel Day-Lewis.
A small gem that will remind you of other American indie films such as Little Miss Sunshine (Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris, 2006) and Juno (Jason Reitman, 2008), in the sense that they will definitely win over everyone’s heart and teach an important lesson about empathy and acceptance.