Review: Don’t Call Me Son
By Sam Eacott
Heaps Gay is excited to be co-presenting acclaimed Brazilian drama Don’t Call Me Son with Queerscreen at Event Cinemas tonight from 7pm. Directed by Anna Muylaert, the film just won a Jury Prize at the Teddy Awards in the 66th Berlin International Film Festival.
Standing at six feet tall with floppy hair, expressive eyes and a slight stoop, Naomi Nero’s portrayal of teenager Pierre – a pop-band performing, promiscuous, party animal – is perfect.
Pierre’s penchant for black eyeliner and g-strings gives this High School coming-out-story a raunchy undercurrent, until things really get turned upside down when his working-class mum is arrested for stealing Pierre at birth. DNA testing sees Pierre thrust into the home of his biological family: a wealthy, narrow-minded bunch enthralled by his return until their long-lost son starts wearing dresses.
At times, Pierre’s stoicism is frustrating; we want to know what she’s thinking and what her future holds. Whilst the film’s focus on Pierre’s clothing choices could be viewed as a reductive and objectifying trope of the trans narrative, this is precisely the point. Our heroine’s silence amidst the noise of her family’s disapproval rings painfully true.
There’s a lot to be read between the lines in this movie and its subtle symbolism continues to reverberate after the credits roll. Just as Pierre’s birth-mother was rendered powerless by the theft of her child years ago, Pierre herself is at the mercy of burgeoning trans identity and the prejudice she faces. Her sudden transition into an acutely unfamiliar home shocks and scares Pierre as much as her gender transition frightens the father who for nearly two decades pined for a stolen son – only to meet a daughter.
Don’t Call Me Son is a clever and provocative look at the labels we use to define and find safety in our relationships with others. What happens when those labels fall apart?
Don’t Call Me Son is screening during Queer Screen Mardi Gras Film Festival Feb 17. For more information and ticketing visit the Queer Screen website.
Review by Benjamin Strum