Focused on borrowing a car in order to pick up his Chilean father at the Newark airport the following evening, Feña (Lio Mehiel), will spend that day facing one problem after another as he reconnects with family, friends and former lover John (Cole Doman, "Uncle Frank"), who awkwardly introduces him to his cousin as Fernanda. With parents on two different continents, mixed cultural heritages and having only transitioned a little over a year ago, Feña feels like a “Mutt.”
Laura's Review: A-
Writer/director Vuk Lungulov-Klotz, himself trans, has made a deeply affecting, personal film about the trans experience, one of the very best LGBTQ movies, and just movies In general, of the year. Lio Mehiel gives an open yet bruised performance as Feña, while also showcasing loving patience and support as the new big brother to a sister feeling abandoned just as she’s facing her own changes.
When Feña spies John on the other end of a bar, he’s both anxious, worried that John may have a girlfriend, and excited, not having seen him since he transitioned. At first John refuses to look Feña in the eye, but an evening of partying with cousin Jenny loosens him up, John even protectively horrified when Jenny’s questions about Feña’s changes get too personal. Alone, a friendly game of hoops finds them caught in the rain and when they take cover in an empty laundromat, Feña initially being shy about exposing his body, things between him and John become intimate.
The next morning, though, John has retreated emotionally and is taken aback that pregnancy is still a possibility. Hurt and confused, Feña heads to her job and is told she has a visitor. Zoe (MiMi Ryder, the lead of Broadway's 'Matilda The Musical'), her fourteen year-old sister, sits outside and, after Feña explains why she had to leave and who she is now, Zoe, seemingly unruffled, tells him that their mother said he was a degenerate and that he hates them. Then, as if things weren’t dramatic enough already, Zoe gets her first period, something her brother is more than prepared to help her through. And yet even when Zoe causes them to get locked out of the friend’s apartment where her brother was procuring keys to a car, his wallet inside as well, Feña exhibits nothing but care and concern for the sister left in a situation he had to extricate himself from. Forced to jump subway turnstiles, he’ll see Zoe safely home before procuring a car from a surprising source and while his reunion with dad Pablo (Alejandro Goic, "The Club") involves rehashing old arguments, it is abundantly clear that dad loves and supports him. It will be a jet-lagged Pablo who notices tears and comforts a broken heart later that evening.
Lungulov-Klotz has devised an obstacle course for his protagonist that he’s studded with emotional minefields and rigged with a ticking clock. It is a wily dramatic device and yet his situations never feel less than everyday and authentic, including the unique issues facing trans people. Utilizing the newly fashionable academy ratio, yet doing so with a keen eye, director of photography Matthew Pothier creates an intimacy in a New York City with personal flavor, one shot of Feña standing on an elevated train platform suggesting Edward Hopper with both lighting and its lower angle perspective. In his feature film debut, Lungulov-Klotz has achieved lived-in performances from a cast featuring both veterans (Goic) and newcomers (Mehiel, Ryder). In a year full of exciting new cinematic voices, “Mutt” stands out for its emotional honesty and artistic achievement.
Robin's Review: B
Strand Releasing releases "Mutt" in select theaters on 8/18/23.