Hot Docs 2023: Our Review of ‘A Happy Man’

Posted in Hot Docs 2023 by - May 08, 2023
Hot Docs 2023: Our Review of ‘A Happy Man’

Marvin packs a few of his clothes in a bag before going to the hospital. But he still can’t sleep, even after his husband Ivan checks in on him. It’s probably nothing, but a issues eventually come to mind when they come. He is, after all, going to the hospital after getting approval to get gender correcting surgery as a trans man. His biggest worry is the possibility of Ivan no longer loving him after transitioning but that’s just one of two things. The other is meeting his parents back in the former Czechia/Slovakia where they both came from.

A Happy Man uses simple methods to show its main subject’s transformation into the man he wants to be. Sometimes, Marvin and the documentary’s director Soňa G. Lutherová check in on each other through Facetime. During those scenes he expresses his frustrations about not seeing his biceps yet so he has to workout like a ‘real’ man. Most of the time, Lutherová is with Marvin has he works out, as well as when he and Ivan do outdoorsy stuff as one does in Sweden, the country they moved to because of its liberal policies towards their citizens, including trans people. 

I gave this criticism to some of the selection in this year’s Hot Docs, but the nitpick I have against A Happy Man is that there’s always room for more. Sure, it captures enough of the outdoors in Sweden. But it doesn’t show them interacting with the people whom Marvin and Ivan discuss in glowing terms. The film captures a bigger sense of community during the trip to Czechia/Slovakia. And I know that the conversations are real but there’s something didactic about them. Otherwise, there’s something beautiful about the way it captures Marvin succeed in his transition and other things.

  • Release Date: 5/7/2023
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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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