MUTT review

Sundance Film Festival London | Mutt review

Feña faces an increasingly chaotic, challenging day in Vuk Lungulov-Klotz’s feature debut. Read our full Mutt review. 

The trans experience is still something we rarely see authentically represented on screen. Films such as The Danish Girl, Girl and Dallas Buyers Club, despite good intentions, often do more harm than good. Mutt, Vuk Lungulov-Klotz’s feature film debut, explores one trans guy’s life compressed into 24 hours and does a much better job than all of the mentioned films combined. 

The film follows Feña (a transformative Lío Mehiel), a trans man, during the most chaotic day of his life. He’s stressed about the arrival of his father when he spots his straight ex-boyfriend John (Cole Doman) at a bar. After a night together, Feña is confronted by his estranged sister, who arrives at his place of work without warning. 

Through these three encounters, we get an authentic glimpse into Feña’s life. These relationships have drastically changed since his transition, but through them, we understand not just Feña but his world and his experiences. Feña’s navigation of his old relationships with a new identity, his real self, makes for a compelling watch, even if Mutt mostly travels a well-worn path. 

mutt film

Credit: Best Friend Forever

The film’s most effective scene comes early on after Feña and John escape the rain into a laundromat. The two rekindle their romance as John offers a sweatshirt to Feña, who asks John to turn around as he changes. He casually notes that he has seen him naked before, making Feña uncomfortable. John insists he wants to see Feña’s body as if he had some right to it because he had seen Feña’s body pre-transitioning. 

It’s a quietly shocking scene which is made all the more powerful by Mehiel’s expressive, but understated performance. Mehiel gently guides us through Feña’s vast, often confusing and overwhelming emotional experience with ease. 

Most interestingly, Lungulov-Klotz’s film asks us to consider the part Feña played in the breakdown of these relationships. There’s no blame, but Lungulov-Klotz also doesn’t pretend that Feña’s transition didn’t fundamentally change the nature of these relationships and dynamics. 

Feña’s mother threw him out of the house following his transition, which all but killed his relationship with his sister, who at 14, needs Feña more than ever. Feña is quick to say that his problems are being fixed by him living a more authentic life, but John notes, equally fast, that his body has never been the sole issue. 

mutt lio mehiel

Credit: Best Friend Forever

Presented in a boxy aspect ratio, Mutt effectively traps us in the frame with Feña. Refreshingly, Mutt never becomes a film about Feña’s identity nor does it preach us about acceptance; we’re past that now (or at least we should be). Instead, it gives us more nuance into the trans experience than any film for some time. 

Lungulov-Klotz is unafraid to ask some tough questions. Mutt is urgent and sprightly, even if it is slightly held back by its limited scope and a lean narrative. There’s a refusal on Lungulov-Klotz’s part to explore Feña’s character more largely and the plot feels a little inorganic and formulaic for a film that has so much meat on its thematic bones. There’s often very little room for characters to just be and breathe within scenes that are driven by the narrative turns, which ultimately waters Mutt down. 

Mutt is playing now at Sundance Film Festival London

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