**The Following Review May Contain SPOILERS**
My Review: Wow. Romeos moved me in so many ways that I feel...speechless. It's been a long time since I watched something that made the tiny hairs on my arms stand on edge. Moved to tears not only because of the performances (although they were extremely good) but because...finally someone has come along and made a movie so brutally honest, without apologies, on a topic that so many people are ignorant about. And we all know what happens when people are ignorant. Ignorance leads to fear and fear leads to blind hatred. That ignorance, fear, and hatred is what kills our youth, whether its from suicide or bashing.
Romeos was one of the movies I actually paid to see at last years 2011 Philadelphia Q-Fest. And guess what? When my mom and I got to the theater and were standing in line, we found out that something was wrong with the film equipment, therefore, we could either get a refund or come back tomorrow. Well, I had work the next day and I live about a good 40 mins from Philadelphia, so I ended up taking the refund. Since then, I have been patiently awaiting the movie's release on dvd and worried that I would be disappointed after waiting so long. Normally, that's what happens, but I was tickled pink that Romeos far exceeded my expectations.
As the synopsis states above, the movie is about a 20 something pre-op transgender FTM (female to male) named Lukas. He gets accepted into some sort of Nursing program and must live in a dorm while completing the course work. Even though Lukas has been taking hormone treatments that have changed his voice, hair growth, and general appearance, he is technically still a female. Because of this, he is forced to stay in the female dorms. The head of housing keeps Lukas's secret, telling the girls that there is no room left in the men's dorms, therefore, Lukas would be staying with them until further notice. Lukas is upset at his housing situation, but perks up when he sees Ine, a friend that knew him when he was known as "Miri" and learns she will be staying at the dorm as well.
As Lukas gets settled in, the first part of the film reveals his daily routine as a transgendered person: hormone injections, lifting weights, measuring different areas of his body, etc. He also keeps a live journal online where he connects with other transgendered people in all stages of their transition. When Ine invites him out with her to a party, you really get to see how awkward it is for Lukas. Even though the hormone treatments have done wonders with his outward appearance-- facial hair, muscles, deep voice etc., the one thing they haven't helped him get rid of are his breasts. Lukas wears some sort of chest binding vest, but it still does not keep his bosom completely flat. This is why he layers his clothes, crosses his arms over his chest, never getting too close to anyone--another words, Lukas is always in a state of anxiety or paranoia, afraid that someone will notice.
The hunky, charismatic Fabio is the one person Lukas wants to notice him, but not for his upper appendages. Fabio is the epitome of a gay alpha male, appearing to be confident in mind and body. He attracts the attention of both males and females and in some scenes in the movie, you wonder if he is bi or if he dates women to make Lukas jealous (you will see what I mean if you watch the film). Lukas is fascinated by Fabio; a part of it could be first love, a crush, but I got the sense that Lukas views Fabio as the perfect male specimen. He is everything that Lukas wants to be-- perfect body and the confidence to go with it.
But all is not as it seems. The more time Lukas spends with Fabio, the more he tries to convince himself that it's his manly attributes that attracts him. But one of the hardest lessons Lukas must learn is how can he expect someone to love and see the real him if he can't even tolerate his own self? And although Fabio may be good at making people believe he is confident and an out and proud gay man, in reality he is closeted in many ways (again, I don't want to give too much away).
There are so many interesting topics that are addressed in this movie, but there were 2 that really fascinated me. One is during a scene where Lukas reluctantly goes with Ine to the beach because he finds out that Fabio is going. While everyone is stripped down to their swimming shorts or bikinis, you feel Lukas's awkwardness as he sits fully clothed with his layered shirts. As he watches Fabio and some of the guys swimming, Ine, his best friend, takes her bikini top off (remember, nude beaches are common in some other countries). Lukas points to Ine's breasts and starts explaining the breast removal process that he will eventually go through and Ine pushes his hand away and tells him to stop.
She asks, "If you like boys, why don't you just stay a woman?"
Lukas responds, "One has nothing to do with the other."
Lukas is completely right. But Ine's question is one that confuses so many people in the world. There is a BIG difference between someone's gender and someone's sexuality but oftentimes they are thought to be one and the same. Gender is whether you are a male, female, or transgender (born with parts you don't identify with and wish to change such as in Lukas's case). Sexuality is your sexual preference, what you are attracted to, such as being straight, gay, bi-sexual, etc. So even though Lukas was born female, he identifies himself as male. He is in the process of physically becoming a male. Since he is attracted to men, that would make him gay. His best friend is being hypocritical. Ine openly admits she is a lesbian. So for her to tell Lukas that he might as well stay female if he likes guys sort of makes no sense. I could see that being more of a comment that someone homophobic would say. Lukas could have turned her words back on her and say, "since you like women, why don't you grow a penis?"
This leads me to the last point I want to make that the movie addresses. Once Lukas's secret is revealed (I won't say how and why), prejudice starts to rear its ugly head. Fabio turns into one of his greatest tormentors, calling him a "tranny", flaunting other men and women around him as if to say he would date anyone other then him. Straight people are not the only ones that can be ignorant and prejudice towards transgendered people. The homosexual community can be a transgendered person's greatest nightmare. Why? Because ignorance breeds fear, and fear breeds hate. Fabio really does care for Lukas. What holds him back is his lack of knowledge about transgendered issues and the pressure of what others would think of him liking someone like Lukas. There is no denying Fabio's curiosity and once he lets go of worrying about what others may or may not think about him and Lukas, he is then more willing to let go of his prejudices and learn more. And let me be clear, Fabio is not as confident as Lukas thought he was. There are many reasons why, but that is for you to find out!
If you think that is all that's covered in Romeos, you are in for a surprise. For a 94 minute movie, it touches on so many more issues, themes, etc. But I don't want to give everything away. It sounds like I did, but I'm telling you, I really didn't scratch the surface. So if you are up for a good drama, some romance, a little comedy, mixed in with real, true life issues that transgendered people go through in today's society, then you really are in for a treat!
Other Thoughts: I just wanted to quickly mention that the acting was top notch, especially Rick Okon who played Lukas. It may sound easy to play a female transitioning to become a male since Rick is already a male, but it isn't.
Oh, and may I also add that the make-up/special effects were AMAZING?? This movie does get graphic and there are some scenes where you see Lukas with his shirt off, so...yeah, that means you are seeing...got the picture?? It looked SO real. I wonder if they got a real transgendered person to model for those scenes? If you like movies or stories like this, then I would like to recommend a movie called Different For Girls, a 1996 film way ahead of its time. For more info about that movie, go HERE.