Mutt is a mesmerizing character study to watch. With a compelling and finely-written script from writer/director Vuk Lungulov-Klotz and a fantastic leading performance from Lio Mehiel, the film takes us through a normal day in the life of a transman, one that’s filled with more than one type of transition.
Over one summer day, three relationships resurface in Feña’s (Mehiel) life. While out with friends at a club, he runs into his ex, John (Cole Doman) who he was with pre-transition. They reluctantly share coke and booze at the insistence of John’s cousin and the two spend the night together.
The chemistry between Doman and Mehiel is palpable. Though we don’t know what happened between the two until much later in the film, you can’t help but root for them. It’s in this scene that we see Feña’s vulnerability start to show as their supposed history comes front and center when confronted with his transition. The way tension builds between the two over a short time is a credit to Lungulov-Klotz’s writing. He knows just when to kill the mood too. In this case, it’s John’s insistence that Fena takes a morning-after pill the next day.
While going to pick up a check at his work after his hookup, Feña’s sister surprises him. After a year apart at their mother’s doing, the eldest sibling immediately expects the worst out of his sister, explaining the fundamentals of a transition. What he finds is a normal teenager that is madder about their distance from one another than his changed gender.
The ebbs and flows of their relationship feed into the everyday drama of hanging with a sibling. They get locked out of Feña’s friend’s apartment who was lending him his car. They bicker on their way to pick up Plan B and tampons for Zoe’s first period. Portraying larger issues through characterization works beautifully for the way Mutt is told. This way of storytelling continues when Feña picks her father up from the airport. Though more supportive than his estranged mother, they struggle to stay on the same page regarding Feña’s life and transition.
Lungulov-Klotz’s script weaves together tension and story perfectly, making way for heartbreaking revelations and personal victories. There are moments in the film where Feña must educate those around him on appropriate interactions with trans people. Early on John’s cousin asks, “Do you, like, have a dick now?” You can hear Feña’s weariness and impatience in Mehiel’s response, something that grows more and more as these interactions persist.
A slice-of-life character study, Lio Mehiel is the glue that holds Lungulov-Klotz’s debut feature together. Everything rides on their performance and not a hair feels out of place authentically. As a director, Lungulov-Klotz holds so much empathy for his subject, using distance to capture how Feña is feeling.
A simple, emotional, and heartbreaking story, Mutt takes us to a place most films centered on trans and queer people don’t. A film about a transman is rare and even rarer is the delicate understanding both director Lungulov-Klotz and actor Lio Mehiel have for their main character.