A five-part web series presented as a feature-length film, Max Currie’s Rūrangi centres around trans-activist Caz (Elz Carrad) who returns to his hometown in a bid to reconnect with his estranged father (Kirk Torrance) after falling upon hard times. It’s been a decade since he left the small rural community which he grew up in; and those he was closest to in the past initially don’t recognise him. However, old friendships are soon rekindled, but understanding doesn’t come easy to some, particularly amongst the more conservative members of the town.
Currie delivers a fully grounded and openly honest discussion of trans issues in this touching drama. Though the pacing is noticeably inconsistent – likely due to its original episodic structure – this movie is nonetheless a sobering and poignant character study that will undoubtedly resonate with audiences.
Much of the success of this production is attributed to Carrad’s understated performance. There are a lot of heavy concerns on Caz’s plate; his strained relationship with his father being only one of them, depression being another. Amongst all the conflict the lead never lets the viewer forget that the central character is just another person trying to get through each day like anybody else. When the difficult conversations surrounding gender and family do inevitably surface, they come from a place that’s both relatable and tangible. Likewise, praise must go to the script’s respectful way in which it tackles the matters at heart, particularly regarding one instance of deadnaming.
Alongside the protagonist’s tale, the central theme of identity is mirrored within the town’s Maori community and told through a subplot revolving around the Caz’s childhood friend (Awahina Rose Ashby). Though this narrative could have benefited from further development, its inclusion serves as an intriguing counterpoint to the main story as both plotlines converge in a satisfying (but painfully clichéd) climax.
Watching Rūrangi, it’s evident that it wasn’t made to be a feature film. Different sections focus on their own specific issues with the broader narrative used as more of a framing device than a driving force. Though this impacts the pacing, it only becomes a major problem during a finale that feels very last minute. Therefore, it is recommended that this work should be watched as a web series as originally intended.
An understated but nevertheless monumentally moving drama, Rūrangi is a web series that should be added to your binge list.
Rūrangi does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch the trailer for Rūrangi here: