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#HotDocs23 Review: A Happy Man

May 1, 2023

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The 2023 Hot Docs Film Festival runs from April 27th to May 7th in Toronto, more information on tickets and showtimes can be found right here.

Ivan and Marvin are a married couple living in Sweden with their two young kids, whose relationship is evolving as Marvin undergoes gender transition. Their story is told in filmmaker Soňa G. Lutherova’s documentary A Happy Man (it’s not established in the film, but the press release notes that Lutherova is also an anthropologist who has known Marvin since 2008, when he was still pre-transition).

The two have been together over fifteen years and already had a family together when Marvin began transitioning in 2019. Lutherova follows the couple over the course of the following three years. The film candidly shows as Marvin goes for top surgery and starts taking testosterone shots, cautious about how Ivan will react as his body changes and becomes more masculine. Ivan muses that he doesn’t really care if people think he’s gay being with a trans man (it would be the same if people mistook him for Italian, he explains – he’s not, but doesn’t really care what others think).

The two moved to Sweden from the Czech Republic, where Marvin is from, hoping that the country would be more accepting. Marvin is also an author of gay and trans erotica, written under the pen name Roe Horvat, with passages from his work being read out in voiceover (he muses that he initially tried writing from the perspective of a female protagonist, but it didn’t sound believable, and he only really found his voice when he started writing male characters).

Mixing intimate footage of the family together at their home that Lutherova captures, as well as Marvin’s candid video diaries offering transition updates, A Happy Man works as an interesting portrait of a relationship in flux, and how two people are weathering these changes together.

Screenings: Monday, May 1st, 5:45 PM at Scotiabank Theatre 7; Sunday, May 7th, 8:00 PM at Scotiabank Theatre 6. Tickets can be purchased here, and the film will also be streaming online across Canada from May 5th to 9th.

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