Tribeca 2019: Flawless (HaNeshef)

Stav Strashko as Eden in FLAWLESS. Photo by Gyora Beach.

Led by a stunning performance from actress/model Stav Strashko, Flawless also offers some serious lessons in this coming-of-age story.

The film quickly sets the tone as it introduces us to Eden (Stav Strashko) and best friends Tigist (Netsanet Zenaneh Mekonnen) and Keshet (Noam Lugasy).  What her best friends don’t know about Eden is that she’s transgender.  Eden’s gender identity doesn’t become important until later on in the film.  This is how it should be and I’ll discuss more on this later.  Both Tigist and Keshet have plans to sell their kidneys through Keren (Assi Levy) in exchange for breast implants.  Eden sees this as the possible answer to all her dreams.  While Eden’s hair and skin grew softer as a result of hormones, her breasts haven’t had the same luck with growing.  At the same time, her father isn’t exactly the most supportive person in the world.  He’s only supportive to an extent.  Hormones and pronouns, good; surgery, not so much.

The trio soon travel to Kiev for their surgeries.  Eden still appears to have some mixed feelings while her dad isn’t entirely on board.  It’s only upon arrival in Ukraine in which all chaos breaks loose.  How far does one need to go to have the perfect body?  On top of this, must one have a flawless body in order to be validated?  This appears to be the case for both Tigist and Keshet.  With Eden, it seems that having the larger breasts would help to not feel so flat.  While I certainly empathize with Eden, I think there’s a better way than resorting to getting money through the black market.  Eden’s reluctance doesn’t stop Keren from going full-on transphobe.

When it comes to transgender identities, there’s a right way and a wrong way to use them in a film.  What Flawless does is treat Eden’s transgender identity in the right way.  Flawless does not use Eden as a gimmick.  Nor are there any shots that are super uncomfortable.  While one shower scene does reach a level of discomfort, this is because of the transphobia on Keren’s part.  This said, co-directors Sharon Maymon and Tal Granit don’t make it a point to focus in on Eden’s genitals.  Unfortunately, Keren isn’t against using the N word here when referring to a transplant recipient.  Tigist and Keshet get in on the transphobia shortly thereafter but ultimately, friendship sparks some of the strongest bonds.  They might have to put in some work but the trio will be the better for it.

Strashko made history when she became the first transgender actress to be nominated for the Israeli Ophir Award.  The actress delivers a remarkable performance.  I’ll just allow this to sink in for a moment.  It’s nice to see transgender talent being allowed to thrive in a leading role for a change.  Strashko does more than just thrive in this instance.  She’s allowed to shine!  This isn’t something that we really see from foreign films.  Hell, it’s not something we see much in American or British films, either.

There’s still something to be said about how Flawless combines both wanting the perfect body with selling organs on the black market.  I pray every day to wake up in a cisgender female body but I sure wouldn’t go the way of the black market to make it happen.

DIRECTORS/SCREENWRITERS:  Sharon Maymon & Tal Granit
CAST:  Stav Strashko, Netsanet Zenaneh Mekonnen, Noam Lugasy, Arad Triffon Reshef, Niv Sultan, and Assi Levy

Flawless held its international premiere during the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival in the International Narrative Competition. Grade: 4/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.