Being a teenager is difficult, especially when you’re so different from what your family expects you to be. This is even more true for LGBT youth who struggle to who they are and where they belong in this world. Marilyn is an Argentinian LGBT coming-of-age story that is anything but typical. Instead, it is a raw and tragic look at what becomes of someone who is broken past the point of no return.
Marilyn begins in Argentina at the beginning of Carnival, a huge pre-Lent celebration that allows people in the region to get all of their vices out before they forgo them for Lent. The story follows Marcos, a 16/17-year-old teen coming to terms with his sexuality. He and his family live on a ranch and they are in charge of tending to the cattle which belong to the owner, Raúl. After his father, Carlos, suddenly dies, his family rapidly declines as they begin to face financial and emotional hardships.
What sets this film apart from other LGBT coming-of-age stories is that Marcos never seems to actually struggle with his sexual or gender identity. It seems as though he has actually accepted who he is. However, he keeps it a secret from everyone but his friend Laura. Instead, the struggles he faces come from the rampant homophobia that he endures from both the town and his family.
After he goes out one night dressed as a woman, he is raped by Raúl’s son, Facundo. Afterward, his mother, Olga, catches him sneaking back into the house. She also finds the female clothing he’s carrying with him. She scolds him for his behavior, takes all of his female items, and burns them. Both she and his brother, Carlitos, show resentment towards him for his soft nature and homosexual qualities. His brother even calls him a homophobic slur, the same one Facundo called him after raping him.
WARNING: This section of the review contains spoilers for the film. If you do not wish to have the plot spoiled for you, do not click on the spoiler tags below.
The film slowly builds up to the final moments that left me reeling. It comes out of nowhere and leaves an unwell feeling in the pit of your stomach. What’s great about the storytelling is that you can see each point that leads up to the finale and clearly understand how we got there.
Marcos – A young farm boy who struggles to live his life free and openly. He finds pleasure in dressing up as a woman and finds himself attracted to other men.
Olga – Marcos’s mother who loves her son but allows her own homophobia to drive her actions. After losing Carlos, she becomes grief-stricken and cruel.
Carlos – Marcos’s father who loves him dearly and doesn’t force him to work in the fields. He is convinced that Marcos has the potential to make it far, and defends him when Olga and Carlitos chastise him.
Carlitos – Marcos’s older brother who resents him for not being forced to work with him and his father, as well as for being gay.
Raúl – The owner of the ranch where Marcos’s family lives. After his son rapes Marcos, people around town begin to spread rumors about Marcos being gay. He tries to reason with Olga to be stricter with her kids and tries to force Marcos to kill an injured cow in order to toughen him up.
Facundo – Raúl’s son who rapes Marcos after dancing with him at a bar one night. He continuously pops up around town, reminding Marcos of his traumatic experience.
Federico – Another teen who works at a convenience store. Marcos and he become romantically involved.
Laura – Marco’s best friend and the only person in his life who is supportive.
Everything in this film was sharp as far as the filming goes. Many indie films are shakey or have obviously low production value. Marilyn, on the other hand, had solid quality shots that you’d find in bigger budgeted films. The lighting was always on point, and it didn’t rely heavily on filters.
Something else that was striking was that the film was generally lacking in dialogue. Most of the scenes only featured ambient sounds of these people living their lives and when they did speak, they had little to say. I think it worked well for the effect they were going for, but it did make the pacing a bit slow at times. I just wanted something to happen so bad that when it did it felt all the more jarring. This may have been by design, however, to get bigger emotional reactions from the audience.
This was probably one of the lower points of the film. While there was some music in the background at times, the film mostly relied on ambient sounds to set the tone. Since it was based on a true story, maybe the filmmakers didn’t want to overdramatize it too much. Still, I think it would have benefited with some more well-placed musical scores.
Marilyn is listed as a drama film and I feel like it does that genre justice. The overall tone is somber, and by the end of it, I was left feeling a bit emotional over the events of the film. I wouldn’t say it was something that just breaks you down like other drama films, but your heart really does go out to Marcos throughout much of the film and the ending leaves you feeling conflicted.
Overall, I think Marilyn accomplished what it set out to do. It’s a dramatized version of the real-life story involving Marcelo Bernasconi. Although it starts off like every other LGBT coming-of-age story, the ending really sets it apart. We’re led to believe that there’s always a silver lining, but sometimes that just isn’t realistic. I think the story of Marilyn serves as a rough reminder of the state of countries where homophobia and transphobia are still rampant.
The acting is solid, the story is interesting, but I wish more care was taken in the way that the story was told. It was presented almost as a series of memories rather than an actual story that sometimes made the film seem fractured and it can be confusing to understand what’s going on. Still, I would definitely recommend it for anyone who enjoys drama films, especially those revolving around LGBT stories. You can watch Marilyn on Vudu, Amazon, iTunes, and Vimeo.