Earlier this year, Tomboy was released, which saw a pre-adolescent taken in by a new group of friends who believe he’s a boy, even though he was born female. Romeos takes a similar theme, but moves the story into young adulthood, with a character who’s already started the transition from female to male.
Lukas (Rick Okon) is a pre-op transsexual who is taking hormones but is yet to have surgical gender reassignment. He heads off for a social service year to a place where only one person knows him, his lesbian friend Ine (Liv Lisa Fries), who used to know him as Mimi and has been by his side during the early stages of his transition. However nobody else is aware of Lukas earlier life, and while bureaucracy means he’s assigned to the female living block, everyone assumes he was born a man.
While Lukas is initially uncertain about his new surrounding, he soon begins to enjoy being treated as one of the boys, without any questions or having to wonder what people are really thinking. He even starts the first flirtations of a relationship with Fabio (Maximilian Belfort), while simultaneously exploring gay culture and expressing the sexuality and gender he believes he should have. Inevitably, Lukas’ secret starts to slip out, causing huge problems with Fabio. Ine also finds it increasingly difficult to accept Lukas’ new life, largely because she’s used to be the centre of attention, and suddenly his problems and life are outshining hers.
Romeos is a complex and engaging film that hooks you in and leaves you thinking. Anchored by a wonderful performance from Rick Okon as Lukas, the film is moving and at times inspiring, bringing true humanity to a subject that’s often overly sensationalised. It’s easy to understand the excitement and happiness that being able to simply be a guy amongst friends brings to Lukas – and also makes you wonder how many transgender people you might have come across, without it crossing your mind they may have been assigned a different gender at birth – but all the time our knowledge of Lukas’ previous identity adds a note of tension, as we know the truth will emerge at some point.
It certainly makes you think about the difficulties for transgender people of how, when and if to tell people about themselves, especially if romance is involved. After all, in an ideal world it wouldn’t even be in issue. Rejection isn’t nice for anyone, but must be a much bigger potential blow if you know things might go wrong simply because you were born in the wrong body. Although Romeos avoids becoming too dark (e.g. the violence many transgender people face), in many ways that helps, as it allows the film to concentrate on its complex characters and the very human questions it raises. It also means that it’s more about the things we all share than the things that drive us apart.
Despite featuring a few too many playful-yet-flirting-chasing-through-the-street scenes and occasionally being a bit too teenage angsty (one scene reminded me so much of Kevin and Perry I laughed out loud) Romeos is a well paced and thoughtful film that whilst tackling some LGBT themes, has a much broader appeal.
Jamie McHale – TQS Magazine
With some delicate strokes and an inspiring message, Romeos mixes gay and transgender themes with a tale that reaches beyond a niche audience. It speaks about the fact that love shouldn’t always be about preconceived notions and boundaries, and that even when someone’s experience of life is very different to most people’s, we’re all very human underneath.
Overall Verdict: An extremely well made, touching and involving film, which transcends its gay and transgender themes to tell a story that’s really about all of us.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac