I’m the first to tell you I am out of my depth writing about trans anything, gender fluid issues. I’m respectful of all the different aspects, but it’s not an area of expertise.
Last night I clicked on a film called “A Good Man” on the TIFF Digital press site. I thought it was a new Anthony Hopkins film because of a press release I’d received several times concerning Sir Anthony and the word “Good” in the title.
What I got was a French film that seemed to be about a young, attractive heterosexual couple in Provence. He was a doctor, she was a teacher. They’d moved to a house by the seaside, they told his brother on a visit, because it was easier than living in the city of Aix in Provence. (I thought, really? I’d love to live in Aix.)
The couple had a sex scene, mostly clothed. I remained clueless. It took a while before it dawned on me that something else was happening. But when the couple went to see their ob/gyn about having children, duh! I got it: the husband announced he would carry the child.
I immediately went to the imdb to see what was going on. (The TIFF site purposely gives little information about the plot and the actors.) There was little information except that Benjamin, the husband, was played by Noemie Merlant, the star of last year’s hit, “Portrait of a Lady on Fire.” Benjamin’s girlfriend was played by someone named Soko. Because Benjamin had a closely trimmed beard that certainly looked real to me, it still took me few a synapses to put the puzzle together. I’m slow, but I finally got the whole thing.
I don’t know what trans people will say about “A Good Man,” but I found it extraordinarily moving. The lead actresses do as good work as I’ve ever seen. I would say they are Oscar material, without a doubt. Merlant is mind blowing in conveying — especially to a viewer as clueless as me — textures of emotion both male and female. The director-writer Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar and her co-writer Christian Sonderegger should be commended on all levels for peeling back this story like an onion. The more layers come off, the more absorbed you become. Who is the mother? The father? The husband? The wife? (There’s one great moment when Soko returns from shopping for a small crib only to find that Benjamin has made one. She is stunned: what place is there for her in this arrangement?)
I don’t know how they paid for “A Good Man” — there’s one production company listed, and it’s theirs. This is a very indie film. I do hope Sony Pictures Classics take a look at it, and France considers it as their Oscar entry. Merlant, again, is superb. I don’t know if a movie has ever covered this subject. I’ve never seen one like it. Bravo!
By the way, “A Good Man” was announced as a selection of the 2020 Cannes Film Festival that didn’t happen. It just shows that Thierry Fremaux and his staff have excellent taste. If this had played in Cannes it would have been the talk of the Croisette.