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“Monica”: A Trans-Led Indie Film about Family, Acceptance, and Reconciliation

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“Monica”: A Trans-Led Indie Film about Family, Acceptance, and Reconciliation

“Monica”: The Plot and Inspiration Behind the Film

Director and co-writer Andrea Pallaoro’s film “Monica” premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2022 and is currently being screened at the 2023 BFI Flare Festival. Trace Lysette takes the lead role as Monica, a trans woman from the Midwest who returns home to take care of her sick mother Eugenia, played by Patricia Clarkson. The film’s plot delves into the beauty of families finding each other again, and the emotional journey of reconciliation and acceptance.


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Pallaoro drew inspiration for “Monica” from the story of a close friend and a desire to explore the themes of abandonment, its consequences, complexities, and traumas. Cultural icons such as Michelangelo Antonioni, Simon Liang, Michael Fassbender, Lucrecia Martel, Virginia Woolf, Susan Sontag, and Adrienne Rich also influenced Pallaoro’s work.

read more: US State Department Investigates Allegations of Suicide by Trans Woman in Saudi Arabia

Nuanced Trans Stories on Screen: A Refreshing Take

“Monica” presents a refreshing take on trans stories, focusing on reconciliation and forgiveness instead of the usual themes of transition and exile. Monica is portrayed as a woman confident in her identity, ready to confront and heal from her complicated past. The film asks important questions about redefining relationships with family after coming out, bridging the years of estrangement, and the possibility of reconciliation being too late.

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Trace Lysette: The Perfect Monica

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Pallaoro had to meet over 30 candidates worldwide before finally discovering Trace Lysette, who brought her own experiences to the role of Monica. Best known for her roles in “Transparent” and “Hustlers,” Lysette is a fierce, courageous, and generous actress. It took over a year for Pallaoro to find the perfect person to portray such a complex character, and Lysette’s performance in the film proves that the search was worth it.

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Patricia Clarkson: A Perfect Fit for Eugenia

Pallaoro had previously met Patricia Clarkson at a film festival years ago and knew she was the perfect fit for the role of Eugenia. Clarkson and Lysette’s chemistry on screen is powerful and palpable, and the two actresses bring the film to life with their performances.

The Importance of Empathy and Understanding

For Pallaoro, the tenderness and rawness with which “Monica” tells its story makes it a vital watch, especially in a world where trans lives are under threat. The film allows audiences to empathize with Monica and understand the world through her eyes, possibly even gaining a better understanding of themselves in the process. Pallaoro believes that this goes a long way in combating the fear that drives the new laws being passed in the US and all over the world.

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A Pivotal Scene: Monica’s Decision

Pallaoro’s favorite scene in the film deals with Monica’s attempt to reconnect with her mother, who no longer recognizes her. After finding the situation too difficult, Monica drives away to the sound of Pulp’s “Common People,” but she eventually makes a U-turn and returns to her mother, deciding that she won’t abandon her.

Clarkson and Lysette’s chemistry is so powerful that the whole crew was weeping during the filming of this scene. “Monica” is a film that will leave a lasting impression on audiences and spark conversations about acceptance, reconciliation, and family.

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