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  • Writer's pictureBen Turner

Rūrangi ****

Starring: Elz Carrad, Arlo Green, Awhina-Rose Ashby, Kirk Torrance

Director: Max Currie

Country: New Zealand

Back in 2013, Aussie drama 52 Tuesdays became one of the first - and probably the most seminal - movies to sensitively portray a trans male narrative on screen. Now, almost a decade later, we return down under - this time to New Zealand - for another landmark entry into the trans male cinematic canon, based on the TV series of the same name.

Trans activist Caz (Carrad) left Rūrangi - his home town - a decade ago to live in Auckland. Now, he returns in an attempt to reconcile with his estranged father (Torrance), who has yet to meet him as a man. Sparks fly when they meet, but Caz perseveres in trying to reestablish a relationship with his Dad, especially as the latter campaigns in the town to eradicate chemical fertilisers. Elsewhere, he reunites with his childhood best friend Anahera (Ashby) and with his ex-boyfriend Jem (Green), who struggles to comprehend who Caz actually was when they dated.

Elz Carrad is remarkable in this role. Not only is he a bonafide hunk, but he brings a masculine vulnerability to the role, quietly restrained but uncompromising in his identity. Caz is, after all, a renowned activist and despite the curveballs thrown toward him, he is able to bite down on his insecurity and stand up for himself with strength and pride. This is the kind of empowering trans lead that was only a pipe dream a decade ago and is what makes this a landmark film.

Make no mistake, there are obstacles aplenty in Caz’s way, but with a refreshing lack of naval-gazing - or cumulative back-breaking misery - this sits perfectly on the right side of positive trans representation. Subsequently the narrative does feel somewhat slight at times, but as a character piece this succeeds on every level, giving us complex but coherent snapshots of every facet of this interesting man’s life. And the development of each of his relationships is suitably compelling too.

Rūrangi is a decidedly average town. This normalcy is deliberate, but it wouldn’t have hurt anyone to play this story out against a prettier backdrop. What we do get, however, is a fascinating subplot about Anahera learning to embrace her Maori roots and learn the language. And with Caz’s relationship with Jem rekindling despite the changes that have occurred in the decade they’ve been apart, this romantic narrative is such a breath of fresh air.

With a positive trans narrative and a captivating lead, this is an indie romance that deserves all your attention. Moving, nuanced and overwhelmingly human, you’ll fall in love with Caz, even if not with Rūrangi.

UK Release: 25th February 2022 in cinemas and VOD, released by Peccadillo Pictures.


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