The Confirmation 2019 ****

The Confirmation is a short film from Denmark, and one that deals with trans issues, or rather, it deals with a trans person; part of the film’s appeal is that it tries to defuse the hectoring tone of previous works on the subject. As David Mamet observed of the creative process, ‘I don’t want people to come out whistling the moral,’- there’s a way of discussing the trans experience that’s about issues and problems, and not about seeing people. The Confirmation deserves a look specifically because it strikes a universal chord, one that looks beyond issues.

Transgender actor Xean Peake plays Matthias, who wants to be a teenage boy; his mother Susanne (Ellen Hillingsø) is supportive, if anything, too supportive. She’s quick to come to his assistance, and she’s right behind him on the day of his Confirmation, the day he becomes an adult in the eyes of family and friends. But others are less quick on the uptake, and the nature of the formal event changes when Susanne gets up to defend her son’s choice…

The Confirmation has some thematic similarities to Festen in that a family gathering is disrupted by a speech with pulls on a fissure previously disguised by ritual. But in first-time director Marie-Louise Damgaard’s film, we stand on a different side of the divide; it’s agonising to Matthias what’s happening, and although he understands his mother’s protective urge, her words are not his.

Advocates are part of culture; everyone wants to be seen, in the internet age, to be on the right side of an argument. What The Confirmation skilfully does is focus on what its like, not to argue, but to be argued about. It’s a plea for understanding, but not in a hectoring way, quite the opposite. Perhaps there is idealism involved, but the film poignantly asks why anyone’s right to be themselves should be a matter of debate.

The Confirmation doesn’t overstay it’s welcome; the film makes an effective point, is well constructed and acted, and should go on to a strong festival and awards run. Once that’s over, it should also be a touchstone for viral use; a mother’s love is something that’s universal, and understanding how that love can be a double-edged sword is integral to the drama here.

The Confirmation is currently playing on the festival circuit.


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