'Transfixed': Film Review

Transfixed still 1 - H 2016
Courtesy of Film Option Intl.
A kind-hearted doc.

Alon Kol chronicles a love story facing more challenges than most.

Alon Kol's debut documentary Transfixed presents a couple whose path to the altar is strewn with numerous speed bumps, not least of which is the prerequisite of a sex-reassignment surgery. Martine Stonehouse and John Gelmon are sympathetic protagonists even if, as both live with Asperger syndrome, they aren't as ingratiating as those documentary fans may be used to. Walking us through a process that is sometimes quite bleak, the film may be too challenging to attract those without a fairly passionate interest in trans rights. For that community, though, and some in the Asperger world, it will feel like a gift.

Stonehouse, born Martin, has been living as a woman for many years. She met Gelmon in an autism-related support group, they were attracted to each other, and in 2003 she revealed that she wasn't born a woman. Gelmon decided he could accept that, but though they've been living together a couple since then, they've held off on having sex (and on marriage) until Martine has the surgery. (Cue Gelmon, in his oddly frank way, asserting his heterosexuality and his need for Stonehouse to obtain a vagina.)

Ontario, where the two live, used to pay for sex reassignment as part of its healthcare program, but reversed that policy long ago. Stonehouse tenaciously fights the law, gets it changed in court, and declares a victory for Canadians seeking to complete this transition — only to realize the doctors near her will not perform the operation on her, because her obesity makes her a poor candidate. "It's a question of life and death," one says.

The movie continues with this step-forward, step-back quest, doling out bits of biography as we go. Most intriguing are the relationships that stretch back to when Martine was Martin, like one with childhood best friend Lotte, whose children Martin helped raise.

In a couple of instances, viewers may grow frustrated with the film's subjects, and they may appreciate it when an American doctor doles out some tough love to Martine about losing weight. Still, one roots for these two people who found each other against staggering odds and are willing to stick together until they can make things work for both of them.

Distributor: Filmoption International
Director-editor: Alon Kol
Screenwriter: Christopher Behnisch
Producers: Felix Golubev, Alon Kol, Julia Morgan
Executive producer: Hilla Medalia
Director of photography: Christoph Behnisch
Composer: Luc Sicard

Not rated, 74 minutes