CAPSULE: Life is torment for Johnny, a transsexual who hates his physical maleness. When the emotional screws are turned too tightly on Johnny, he releases the pressure in a truly disturbing sequence. This is the second film from writer/director Trevor Juenger. It is roughly edited (also by Juenger) to give a stark, grunge feel. JOHNNY BE GONE will be highly selective in its appeal. The viewer's reaction will be come in large part from a capacity to appreciate the anguish on film. JOHNNY BE GONE has nudity and strong violence. Rating: 0 (-4 to +4) or 4/10
Spoiler Warning: This review contains spoilers.
JOHNNY BE GONE is a rough, violent, unpolished film with a rough, violent, unpolished story. Chicago-based Trevor Juenger wrote and directed this 44-minute film about a transsexual living in both St. Louis and agony. Every day he is facing hatred for what he is, and more than a little of it is self-hatred. Johnny (played by Erik A. Williams, who co-produced this low-budget film with Juenger) lives in constant mental torment each day. He desperately wants a sex-change operation, but in the interim he would settle for a job at the local sandwich shop. The owner of the shop refuses to hire him since the customers would probably object to him. The film opens with a gang from the same sandwich shop beating him and binding his ankles to hang him head down from a tree. With the exception of his roommate Logan (Joe Hammerstone), everyone who knows Johnny treats him with indifference at best; at worst, well, the film opens with him being hung from a tree. There is also a mother figure in Johnny's life, but she is in the form of a talking rabbit who gives Johnny the same warm caring relationship that Norman Bates had with his mother. It seems there are not enough tormentors in Johnny's life without him creating a talking rabbit to make matters even worse.
Johnny spends his time hating those parts of his anatomy that stand between him being what he is and being the woman he wants to be. The hatred builds and is finally expressed in actions that are probably more explicit and graphic than many viewers will want to see. This is a film that is made to disturb and it will not be a pleasant watch. The film feels like a grungy American version of a Yukio Mishima story.
Juenger has intentionally made this film as uncompromising as he could manage. The hand-held camera photography is jarring and at times I found it hard to see with the film was showing me. I had a synopsis with the film at I needed it to understand what I was seeing in the climax. Juenger likes to give us images of Johnny's pets. I waited for this attention to pets to pay off in some way, but if it was more than padding, I missed it. The film creates a claustrophobic world for Johnny. Living in St. Louis there must be more than one place where Johnny could work and where he might be more welcome than at the sandwich shop that is such a hotbed of anti-transsexual bigotry. But his world seems reduced to four or five locations.
A downer of an experience, JOHNNY BE GONE has a rising tension until it gives forth a intense release. I rate JOHNNY BE GONE a 0 on the -4 to +4 scale or 4/10. JOHNNY BE GONE is making the rounds of film festivals.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1546402/ Mark R. Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2011 Mark R. Leeper
Mark R. Leeper email@example.com Copyright 2011 Mark R. Leeper