Review: The New Girlfriend explores gender identity

Bama Art House consistently brings independent films that tackle some of the world’s current events, be they political or social, while providing entertainment. This Tuesday’s showing of François Ozon’s adaptation of ‘The New Girlfriend’ covers prevalent social issues, such as sexuality and gender with a dramatic, often times comedic spin.

‘The New Girlfriend’ is a French-language drama adapted from the short story of the same name. The story begins with the death of Laura, a childhood friend and wife, respectively, of the two main characters Claire and David. At Laura’s funeral, Claire makes a promise that she will take care of David and Lucie, Laura and David’s infant daughter.

While checking on David and Lucie, Claire stumbles upon a secret: David has been cross-dressing as a means of pleasure and grievance in a post-Laura world. Claire at first panics, but as the movie progresses, both David and Claire become closer through David’s transition into his life as a woman named Virginia.

The two go shopping, travel and even revisit childhood memories of Laura as they slowly bond. This bond persists through the entire movie, but as David makes the transition further as Virginia, their friendship falters while a sexual relationship begins.

This relationship threatens Claire’s marriage, her previous friendship with Laura and the promise she made on Laura’s funeral day. Virginia struggles with accepting herself and becoming more open with her new gender identity. 

The film shines light on the transitioning period of a transgender female as she struggles with conforming to societal norms, accepting her new identity and more. While the film takes some of these moments with light comedic elements, it attempts to touch on the matter with a dramatized tone overall. This balance made the film stand out among others that have struggled to face the issue with ease.

Though the film was only screened one night, ‘The New Girlfriend’ served as an enjoyable and touching look into the life and relationships of Virginia and Claire as they both work through the death of a friend and the start of a new life. The two drive the film forward in a touching way that had the audience in tears during crucial moments.

While ‘The New Girlfriend’ is no longer screening at the Bama Theater, next week’s showing of Mustang seeks to shine light on the topic of childhood abuse and the challenges of growing up in a conservative home. Students can see a list of the films being screened at the Bama Theatre as well as plays, concerts and more on Bama Theatre’s website. Bama Art House screens movies every Tuesday night at 7:30pm at $7 for a student ticket.

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