Anyone who reads my reviews knows that my favorite kinds of films are most certainly independent films. There is nothing better that finding a brilliant indie film, that pushes boundaries that mainstream films never dare to do. One such film is Transamerica, a touching and sweet little indie dramedy that teaches us the complexities of being human, and like many other humble indie films, show us a side of humanity rarely ever seen in mainstream cinema.
Transamerica was released in 2005. It is ten years later, and in a decade, many films about a civil topic would be slightly outdated or quite simply archaic if they don’t fit the mould of being a historical film about that subject. Transamerica, however, is more relevant today than any other time. We live in a time where transgender issues are gaining more and more visibility, and a discussion many people around the world are having. I won’t spend this entire review speaking about transgender issues, because that goes into the territory of politics, which may be relevant, but it isn’t entirely relevant to Transamerica. Transamerica deals with transgender issues more on the social level, and accomplishes something very unique – it doesn’t come off as preachy, nor does it have the intention of educating people on these issues. Quite simply, it tells the story of one woman, her son and the people they encounter and find along the way, including themselves.
Felicity Huffman has always been such a wonderfully warm, pleasant actress. She may be somewhat known now, but when Transamerica was made, Desperate Housewives was still only a fresh-faced series, and she didn’t quite yet have the recognition she has now back then. Her performance could quite possibly be the best female performance of the decade, and the fact that she, a character actress, could manage to not only get the lead in quite a notably acclaimed film, and taken this performance all the way to the Academy Awards is one of the most delightfully satisfying examples of cinematic serendipity.
Other than Huffman, who gives a tour-de-force performance, she shares the screen with a remarkable young actor, Kevin Zegers, who has gone on to have some great performances in other films and TV shows as well. The two have remarkable chemistry, and while I believe that Huffman deserved to get the lion’s share of recognition and acclaim for her performance, Zegers was fantastic as well, and a lot of this film’s brilliance relied on their wonderful chemistry and each actor bringing their absolute best to the film.
There are also a few actors who pop up in small supporting roles that contribute a lot to how great this film is. Fionnula Flanagan is wonderfully dry as Huffman’s bitter and resentful mother, and Graham Greene is wonderfully sweet as the Native American bachelor who acts as a knight on a white steed for Huffman’s character. It isn’t always the incredible leading roles that give these films heart, but also the scene-stealing supporting characters that just add so much depth to the film.
Transamerica is a lovely film. It deals with some important issues, but does so in a very funny, heartfelt and meaningful way. It stays true to its indie family, and creates a very emotionally resonant little film about life and family, and as I said before, shines a new light on what it means to be a person. It shows remarkable humanity, and for that reason alone, Transamerica is an absolute masterpiece.