'From This Day Forward': Film Review

Courtesy of Argot Pictures
An intimate and sometimes funny look inside an altered family.

Sharon Shattuck comes to grips with childhood embarrassment about her transgender father.

What's it like for a girl entering middle school, with all its attendant social terrors, when Dad decides he wants to dress like a woman in public? Just ask Sharon Shattuck, whose feature-doc debut From This Day Forward is forthright about the embarrassment. "I pretty much rejected my Dad," she admits. Now an adult (who before this has worked in short-film and documentary animation), Shattuck takes her camera home for a family movie likely to attract attention in this transgender-curious cultural moment.

Now calling himself Trisha but accepting "Dad" from his two adult daughters, Sharon's father is a talented amateur painter, a banjo player and (though the pic waits briefly before revealing this) loving partner to Sharon's mother, who was the family breadwinner even before Dad's uneasiness with gender roles became public. Interviewing all four family members and pairing their memories with old photos and video, the film pieces together a timeline of how Marcia Shattuck adjusted to her partner's needs and how their children didn't. (Trisha claims to have come out to Marcia on their second or third date, in an encounter ripped straight out of Glen or Glenda.)

Sharon's parents initially said they were divorcing, but it just never happened — not even as Trisha began electrolysis, rhinoplasty and other procedures (though not actual sex-reassignment surgery) to feminize her features. For years, Sharon and her sister hoped for the split, so they wouldn't have to deal with "mortifying" public encounters.

Leaving home — and meeting trans people outside their family — seems to have helped the girls start to accept their father. Now, as Sharon approaches her wedding (and the long-looming question of whether Dad will walk her down the aisle in a dress), the family comes together to resolve some old issues.

The well-photographed film spends plenty of casual time observing the mix-and-match way Trisha now presents herself to others. And it works its way around to some of the usual questions. ("That's all I want to know about that!," Sharon insists, after Trisha reveals that she and Marcia still have sex.) Its biggest value, one suspects, is in its suggestion of the range of possibilities inherent in transitions like this. Thirty-five years after their marriage, Trisha admits to still feeling unsettled about her gender identity; Marcia owns up to occasionally not being attracted to her partner. But things appear to be more or less happy in a family that could very well have disintegrated many years ago.

Distributor: Argot Pictures
Production companies: Fork Films, Artemis Rising Foundation
Director-director of photography: Sharon Shattuck
Screenwriters: Frederick Shanahan, Martha Shane, Sharon Shattuck
Producers: Martha Shane, Sharon Shattuck
Executive producers: Abigail E. Disney, Regina K. Scully
Editor: Frederick Shanahan
Composer: Chris Bathgate

Not rated, 75 minutes