The Real Thing is about a soldier father and a transgender daughter but it may very well be the best short film that anyone will see all year long.
I’ve seen a lot of short films this year starting with my coverage of the 2018 Sundance Film Festival in January. Some are important in their own ways and some of them will never have their cinematic shots recreated without the use of CGI. When it comes to The Real Thing, I had tears in my eyes by the time I finished watching the film.
My tears didn’t come as a result of the rejection at school. There’s plenty of this, unfortunately. Whether it’s outside the restroom when an adult approaches or the deadname appearing on the exam, the transphobia hurts to watch. This is the reality for many of us in the transgender community. It always hurts to see these being depicted on screen but that’s just a way of life, unfortunately.
This is a film that is told more so through actions rather than words. No words are more important than when Allie Waltze (Sophie Giannamore) comes home to find her solder father, Michael Waltze (Michael Torpey), standing in her room. It’s not too long before our tears start falling during their hug after her dad says, “Hi, Allie.” It’s such an emotional moment for the two of them in addition to us as an audience.
Brandon Kelley could have taken this in so many different directions. Allie already has to deal with people who don’t accept her at school. He could have easily wrote a script in which her father rejects her identity. He doesn’t do so and the film is all the better because of this. The last thing any of us want to see is Allie’s family rejecting her.
I love that they didn’t go the rejection route for her father. For every film that shows families rejecting their trans loved ones, there’s fewer films to show their acceptance. There’s even fewer films that show this outright without parents going on an arc. There’s no reason to keep showing parents going from not accepting their children to accepting their children. This is especially important when parents know the stakes from reading the news. Transgender people have a higher survival rate when surrounded by an environment who accept us. I commend Brandon Kelley for making this film as is.
Sophie Giannamore doesn’t have much–if any–dialogue but she’s magnificent in the film. I look forward to seeing how the rest of her career plays out. If she keeps up with performances like this, Sophia will be a household name some day.
If there’s a message to take away from The Real Thing, let it be that all parents of trans children (no matter what age) have a duty to love their children unconditionally.
DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: Brandon Kelley
CAST: Sophie Giannamore, Michael Torpey