Writer/director Martin Rodríguez Redondo’s feature film debut Marilyn tells the story of a young man struggling with his sexual identity in a society that refuses to understand or accept. It’s based on the true story of Marcelo Bernasconi, now Marilyn Bernasconi, a transgender woman whose crime became a media sensation over a decade ago. To reveal that crime is to spoil the ending of the film so implore you, if you don’t know the story do not Google before you watch the film.
Set in rural Argentina, Marilyn stars Walter Rodriguez as Marcos, the son of a lower class family who runs a farm on land they rented from a wealthy landowner. When his father dies suddenly, Marcos, his mother and his brother are left in charge and struggle to keep the farm going. Marcos steals women’s clothes and jewelry and on the night of the carnival transforms himself into Marilyn. This is where he is truly free to be himself. He has the support of his best friend Laura (Josefina Paredes), but others, including the son of a landowner, Facundo (Rodolfo Garcia Werner), who rapes him after Carnival, and his mother tries to deny him his freedom of expression and his sexuality. Marcos is facing immense pressure to live life according to gender norms. What will it take for Marcos to be free to be Marilyn?
Marilyn is a raw, spare and harrowing film. It lingers, allowing the viewer to really appreciate Marcos/Marilyn’s struggle. Rodriguez brings a sensitivity to the role that makes it feel genuine. Redondo shows great promise as a feature film director. The film ends abruptly at the aforementioned crime and it was Redondo’s intention not to make this a true crime film and he says “there’s no rational way to understand a crime, it was necessary to respect that mystery…”
Ultimately the we understand what led Marcos/Marilyn to the point of no return. However, the film holds the viewer at arm’s length. We’re with Marcos/Marilyn the whole time but we don’t really get to know this character all too well.
Overall the film felt unique in that it wasn’t a coming-of-age story, a coming out story or a story about transition. It focused solely on the struggle. We know after the movie fades to black that there lies a much bigger story to tell on the horizon.
Marilyn opens in L.A. at Laemmle Music Hall today. It will be available through Breaking Glass Pictures on DVD/VOD on April 30th.