Review: A Good Man
- Touching on a very delicate subject, Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar explore with great empathy the desire for children of a trans man incredibly played by Noémie Merlant
“You ask me questions, but I don’t have the answers. I don’t know where we’re going either. I don’t know how people will react, how I will react.” Benjamin and Aude love each other and are happily living in Brittany, on the Groix island. They’ve already gone through many things together, but they’re now stepping into totally unknown territory, because their only solution for having a child is that Benjamin (formerly named Sarah, now a trans man still transitioning) carry the baby.
Gender, identities, truth: what is a woman, a man, a mother, a father? And “if it works, how will you live that? What will people say?” By tackling, in fiction, the ultimate symbol of femininity and the taboo of the perspective of a pregnant man (his own and that of other people on him) in A Good Man, recipient of the Cannes 2020 Official Selection label and just screened at the 45th Toronto International Film Festival, in the Industry Selects programme, Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar was taking a lot of risks. Because beyond the potential polemics around such a “touchy” subject, the credibility and the integrity of the entire project was only hanging by a thread on paper, even though the French filmmaker had already demonstrated her talent for seducing audiences around delicate topics in Once in a Lifetime [+see also:
film profile] (the transmission of the knowledge of the atrocities of the Nazi concentration camps to younger generations) and Heaven Will Wait [+see also:
film profile] (the islamist radicalisation of western teenagers). This time, the step to make is even higher, but the director largely wins her bet, thanks to an excellent script (written by the director together with Christian Sonderegger, who is familiar with the topic since he had dedicated his documentary Coby [+see also:
film profile] to his trans step-brother) and to a remarkable performance from Noémie Merlant in the role of Benjamin, well supported by Soko (who plays Aude). Qualities which help the film delve into a profound empathy for this couple which would like, just like other people, to make their desire for a child a reality, but who faces dilemmas that are out of the ordinary.
By carefully setting the context for its story (in the beautiful landscapes of the Groix island), A Good Man very efficiently sets up the elements of its story. Benjamin is a nurse, Aude is a dance teacher, and both are enjoying their new life since they left Aix-en-Provence (“it really was hell for Ben, we’re a thousand times better here”). Six years of love unite them strongly since their encounter in a club, when Benjamin was still called Sarah (an event told in flashback). Six years of struggle before Benjamin finally obtained his legal identity of male, towards which he is progressively transforming his body. But their desire for a child totally shakes up their equilibrium and forces them to try and redefine their place in and their relationship to the world… A Cornelian journey that is very affecting and which Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar retraces with a precise and attentive eye, alternately tugging on and letting go of our heartstrings and without foregoing a few moments of lyricism and harmony in the (extra) ordinary quest of these two characters, flag-bearers of the fluidity of our times.
(Translated from French)
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