Marilyn is not for the faint-hearted. Based on the harrowing true story of Marcelo Bernasconi, if you are looking for a feel-good queer movie, this isn’t it. However, having said that, I appreciate such stories being told.
I was provided a free screener of Marilyn for review by Breaking Glass Pictures. The opinions are my own.
Trigger Warning: This review mentions rape.
Marilyn tells a queer tale based in rural Argentina. It focuses on Marcos (Walter Rodríguez), the youngest son of a farming family. Marcos lives with their father Carlos (Germán de Silva), mother Olga (Catalina Saavedra,) and older brother Carlito (Ignacio Giménez). Carlos is all about supporting Marcos as much as possible so his child can gain an education and help the family. While Marcos’s family seem okay with their sensitive nature – Olga allowing them to select her dresses, stitch them up when needed, etc. – things change when Carlos dies.
Marcos lives a closeted life. It is during the local carnival, Marcos is able to show their true self by transforming into a fun-loving young woman and dancing the night away. However, things take a turn for the worst when Facundo (Rodolfo Garcia Werner), a (closeted?) rancher’s son, rapes Marcos while they are on their way home with their best-friend Laura (Josefina Paredes).
Due to how the entire scene plays out, you might end up asking certain questions. Why didn’t Laura call for help when Marcos told her to go away? Did Marcos read the situation wrong? Did Marcos’s desire to experience any kind of sexual experience triumph thinking about their own safety?
Marcos keeps quiet about the entire ordeal. Olga finds Marcos’s feminine garments and begins forcing them to act more like a man. Not knowing how to express themselves anymore, we see Marcos slowly fall into a downward spiral.
A bit of positivity does enter Marcos’ life when they meet Federico (Andrew Bargsted), an openly gay shopkeeper, but their relationship encounters problems due to Marcos’s family not being accepting.
Again, a happy true story this is not. But due to the way Walter Rodriguez acts in the film, you can’t help but be optimistic for Marcos.
Award-winning writer-director Martin Rodríguez Redondo tells a highly engaging story in Marilyn. It goes to show how being queer isn’t easy for everyone around the globe. A lot more work needs to be done for universal acceptance.
Marilyn premiered at Berlinale in the Panorama section, and went on to live a “healthy festival life and take home a number of awards.”
It won the CICAE Art Cinema Award at the “Cine en Construcción” section of Toulouse Cinélatino Rencontres Festival, and the Sin Sistema prize at the Work in Progress section of BAL (Buenos Aires Independent Film Festival).
The film also won INCAA’s First Feature Film Prize, INCAA-CNCA Co-Production Support Fund (Argentina-Chile), and Ibermedia’s Film Co-Production Support Fund. It has participated at the Oaxaca Film Script Lab (Mexico), the San Sebastián Film Festival Co-Production Forum (Spain), the SANFIC Santiago Industry Lab, and Australab at FICValdivia (both in Chile).
The Los Angeles theatrical release began April 26, 2019, at Laemmle Music Hall. It was released on DVD and VOD on April 30, 2019.
Here’s the official synopsis
Marcos and his family work as caretakers on a ranch. While his father and brother handle the heavier tasks, Marcos stays home close to his mother. Each one has their future laid out before them, but Marcos is just waiting for the arrival of Carnival, the one moment when he can let his true self out to shine and show everyone just the way he feels inside. The sudden death of his father leaves the family in a very vulnerable situation. The ranch owner hounds them to go away, while Marcos’s mother pressures him to take over the work in the fields. Nicknamed Marilyn by the other teenagers in town, Marcos is a target for desire and discrimination. And then one Carnival night he is raped….
Based on a shocking real case, Marilyn brings to the screen a powerful breakthrough lead performance by Walter Rodríguez as a boy confronted with the impossibility of being who he wants to be.
Do watch Marilyn if you want to support some award-winning queer content.
Feel free to share your thoughts with us.
Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.
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