Review: Colors of Tobi

Written and directed by Alexa Bakony, co-written by Marianna Rudas, Éva and her family live in a tiny village in Hungary, her 16-year-old child recently came out as transgender and lives by his chosen name of Tobi. After the initial shock, the whole family comes together to support him. However, Éva is quietly suffocating from the idea of losing the girl she was raising. Starring: Tóbiás Benjámin Tuza, Éva Ildikó Tuza, Zoltán Tuza, Nikolett Tuza and Máté Tuza.

The first impression this film makes is how fantastic it is to see such supportive parents, it’s a beautiful thing and sets the tone for how family focused, intimate and personal this documentary is. Its strength as a film comes from a perspective of imperfection, Éva is such a wonderful mother but she can’t help that her son’s situation is hard for her to get her head around. The relentless support and love she gives is balanced with her struggle with the idea of losing a daughter, she wants him to be who he is but she can’t help these subconscious emotions that build up. In one early scene where she accidentally uses his former name, he’s shattered by it and you can hear him crying in the other room and you can see her trying to reconcile her desire to be a good mother with the fact that she’s human and it’s a time of adjustment for them. It’s absolutely heart-breaking watching everyone try to do the right thing and be open about how they feel but it isn’t always a smooth journey and feelings get hurt along the way.

Bakony has managed to capture a real, sincere conversation and journey about transgender people and their families. It has its feet so firmly on the ground that it almost makes you feel like one of the family. It draws you in so easily with its raw emotion and it’s genuinely fascinating to watch them progress and learn, and for Tobi to discover who he is and how to get to a place where he’s happy. It gets even more interesting when they begin to discuss issues of non-binary identities. It’s a complicated issue for most people so for Éva and her husband, it forces them to be honest about not entirely understanding but reminding Tobi that they just want him to be who he is and be happy.

One of the best decisions the filmmakers made was to not delve into transphobia, this is a story about acceptance and understanding, we all know the hate is out there but it doesn’t have a place in this documentary. It puts its attention on the typical human experience, its awkwardness and emotional nature, the result is something sweet, charming and moving. It never loses that focus, Bakony and Rudas create a fantastic consistency in the tone and atmosphere that the film builds.

Colors of Tobi is a beautiful, loving and engrossing documentary about a family’s honest experience of transitions and gender identity. It’s full of raw emotion and relatable struggle, it strikes at your heart, brings tears and provides a simply wonderful viewing experience. Watching Éva’s relationship with her son Tobi is genuinely special, it’s humbling and meaningful. It’s rare to find a documentary that manages to be this intimate and sincere, taking you right to the heart of this family.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯✯

Reviewed as part of BFI Flare – Available to watch from 17th to 28th March on BFI Player

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