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  • Writer's pictureBen Turner

Almost Saw The Sunshine ****

Starring: Munroe Bergdorf, Craig Stein, IMMA, Alexander Theo, Patrick Knowles, Elizabeth Carling

Director: Leon Lopez

Country: UK

In this mid-length film from British director Leon Lopez, Rachel (Bergdorf) is a career-driven trans woman who is trying to live a normal life in London. She lives with her alcoholic mother (Carling), but is surrounded by a great network of friends. She thinks she is too busy for love, but when hunky Nathan (Stein) begins to doggedly pursue her, she goes against her better judgement and tentatively allows him to woo her. But as she tries to exert her right to not always say yes, his ego is bruised and he takes it out on her in ways that she couldn’t have imagined.

Developed in collaboration between Lopez and Bergdorf, this story is the amalgamation of several true stories that were not being reported in the press. Lopez says that when he made the film there were a lot of stories in the press about trans people “as tokens” that “were very surface” and he approached trans actress Munroe Bergdorf and asked which stories about trans people were not being told. She told him that it was “the murder and violence committed towards trans women”. And the movie developed from there.

This is the tragic story of the destruction of a beautiful soul. Rachel is a warm, loving and incredibly likeable character, played with visible heart from Bergdorf. Her normality is striking, but she is also remarkably unique and who had absolutely not achieved what she could have in life. But while the piece centres around an abusive and dangerous relationship, it is also soaked in the daily prejudices she received for just being trans. From rejection from her father, to clear derogatory treatment at work, every day is a struggle for her, even if she has forged a strong identity despite it.

Rachel is a complex character and it’s refreshing to see such a human portrayal of the trans struggle on screen. This isn’t a movie about the personal struggle of accepting a trans identity, as most movies about trans people are, but instead about what comes after, showing that the “happily ever after” is still so much less likely to happen for trans people today. While there has been much criticism levelled at movies that consistently depict negative experiences for its trans characters, the high rate of abuse, suicide and murder for trans people is an undisputed fact and the film unflinchingly reflects this.

This is an incredibly moving film that paints a vivid picture of Rachel’s world. This could easily have been feature-length as some of the supporting characters and their relationships with Rachel do not get as much space to breathe as you would like (Rachel’s friend, portrayed by IMMA, is criminally underused), but this film’s gloriously authentic voice is moving, powerful and heartbreaking. It would take a very hard heart not to be moved by this story; I ugly-cried… a lot.



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