BFI Flare 2021 ‘Valentina’ Review: A Transgender Teen Fights for a New Life

Valentina (Thiessa Woinbackk) is a trans girl who moves with her mother to a new town to start new lives. But to enrol in her new school she requires the signature of her father who has disappeared. As they begin to search for him, Valentina starts bonding with the small community, but she worries about the impact her past may have on her new life. Will prejudice chase her away again, or will she make a stand?

Thiessa Woinbacck is fantastic as the plucky hero. The dignity with which she carries herself, though never at the expense of a relatable vulnerability, ensure the sequences of oppression, though terrible, are never overwhelming. She is surrounded by malice. Filmmaker Cássio Pereira dos Santos portrays male attention with great malevolence. They are a threat to her physically as a woman, and a threat to her identity as a transwoman. As a transwoman, Valentina is beset with a thousand bureaucratic inconveniences, all of which serve to other her and deny her true identity.

A new and vibrant life awaits Valentina and her mother once they’ve slipped the snare of the past. New friends, new partners, a whole new world of opportunity that is lovingly and authentically realised. The danger the young family faces is frighteningly real, as is the ineffective support of the local police department who spectacularly fail to act when Valentina is threatened. This isn’t a cynical film but it doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities that transgender people experience.

Sweet natured relationships between the friends and a youthful mystery story with a dark heart. Although this film portrays the horrible things that can happen to teenage trans people, Valentina and her friends and family do fight back. They make use of all the legitimate means you would hope would protect a person in this situation. But ultimately the prejudices she faces are systemic and everywhere. But a beautiful sequence near the end of the film suggests that with some courage, the next generation may be able to triumph over this evil.

Five Stars

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *