Saturday, 27 May 2017

THE TRANSFIGURATION - Review By Greg Klymkiw - The tragedy of adolescent vampirism (and another reason why Toronto's The Royal Cinema is the best indie theatre in Canada).

Teen lovers in dangerous times.

The Transfiguration (2016)
Dir. Michael O'Shea
Starring: Eric Ruffin, Chloe Levine, Aaron Clifton Moten

Review By Greg Klymkiw

We've all found ourselves in public washrooms when, whilst relieving ourselves, we hear the sounds of voracious sucking and slurping coming from within the hidden sanctity of a closed-door stall. Our thoughts turn to all manner of carnal activity, but never do we imagine that a vampire is dining upon the jugular of a victim. Well, it is indeed the activities of a supernatural bloodsucker revealed to us at the beginning of The Transfiguration.

The Nosferatu in question turns out to be the sweet-faced 14-year-old Milo (Eric Ruffin), a frequently bullied introvert who lives in a Queen's high rise housing project with his older brother Lewis (Aaron Clifton Moten), a PTSD-suffering veteran of the Middle East conflicts and shattered by the tragic death of the boys' mother. Milo loves vampire movies and he definitely qualifies as a movie geek of the highest order since he collects all his favourites (Martin, Near Dark, Let the Right One In, etc.) on - I kid you not - VHS dupes. When he meets Sophie (Chloe Levine), a fellow teen resident of the complex, they hit it off big-time and for a first official date, he takes her to a Manhattan revival house to see F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu on the silver screen.

In spite of the film's supernatural element - Milo is, after all a genuine vampire - I find it difficult to classify the picture as a horror movie. Yes, it has dollops of tension and suspense throughout, but if anything, it's a deeply moving love story about two lonely kids in New York who develop a very special bond. Director Michael O'Shea's screenplay is fuelled by humanity. He addresses the loss of parents, loneliness, bullying, life in the inner city projects, gang culture and even ethnocentrism/racism by way of rich kids coming into the neighbourhood to buy drugs, assuming they can approach a teen for these purposes just because he's African-American.

Most of all, though, the film explores the hopes and dreams of the young lovers and sensitively delves into the ultimate tragedy of their love.

O'Shea's film is a deliberately paced, beautifully observed take on vampire lore that's replete with appealing, natural performances and a bevy of touches that are occasionally in the realm of Neo-realism. We see a New York we seldom experience - even plenty of ocean views via the Queens neighbourhood of Rockaway Beach. The movie pulsates with life and if Vittorio De Sica had ever thought about making a vampire movie, it would probably have resembled The Transfiguration.

My only warning to viewers is this: Bring Kleenex and lots of it. As I sat shuddering and sobbing during the end title credits, I was sure glad I had plenty of tissue on my person.


The Transfiguration9to plays theatrically in Canada at The Royal Cinema in Toronto via Strand Releasing.