A 17-year-old trans girl struggles to live a normal life in the hard-hitting social realist drama, Valentina. Directed by Cassio Pereira dos Santos, the film is a 95-minute slow burn that paints a damning picture of the reality for the LGBTQ+ community living in conservative modern-day Brazil.
Valentina (Thiessa Woinbackk) and her mother Marcia (Guta Stresser) move to the sun-soaked countryside for a fresh start, anxious to live peacefully – where their gender history and past experiences are kept private. However, complications soon arise after receiving news that she can’t use her social name to enrol in high school without her father’s signature. As she waits for her estranged father’s response, she must endure threats and harassment as she tries desperately to avoid being bullied at her new school. The script focuses on propelling realism, crafting a simple story centred around describing the actions that Brazilian-adolescent trans boys and girls face daily, as opposed to deep diving into the protagonist’s full emotional through-line and character arc.
Here is the catch-22: on the one hand, the film’s characters are surprisingly devoid of personality, but on the other, their predictability still proves to be charming and works as a great vessel to drive the social-political events detailed throughout the work. The movie’s emotional impact comes proxy from its tragic events, as forming solid connections to the lead’s internal journey’s proves to be a struggle with dos Santos’s broad writing. This lack of individuality in the characters make some scenes drag; however, the strong cast manages to deliver nuanced and powerful performances that truly make this flick a stand out.
Woinbackk’s feature acting debut is mesmerising. Her soft and sincere performance as the titular character is both enduring and heart-breaking. Similarly, Stresser’s portrayal as a mother is memorable and the love for her daughter palpable. Where the writing lags and fumbles, the acting truly shines as the talented cast captivate viewers, demanding attention as the imperative and personal perspectives of trans issues are portrayed on screen.
Valentina is a powerful and important picture. With over 82% of trans teens being driven out of school in Brazil today, the story is a much-needed voice for representation. Although it struggles in its writing, the outstanding performances and strong political points make this a vital watch.
Valentina does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch the trailer for Valentina here: