2LGBT+ films show the difficulties of finding safe spaces and Runs in the Family depicts the realities of that struggle. While going on a road trip from South Africa to neighbouring Eswatini, River (Gabe Gabriel) and Varun (Ace Bhatti) try to find places to sleep, only to encounter people judging them when they tell receptionists that they’re fine while platonically sharing a bed. River, a transman, sees how society generally treats him differently now.
But enough of the heavier side of social commentary, the reason they’re making the road trip in the first place is to rescue River’s mother Monica (Diaan Lawrenson) from a rehab facility in Eswatini, which is something River is reluctant to do because she abandoned him a year after she gave birth to him. He has one condition for Varun – that they’ll be back just in time for River to compete for a big drag competition.
Ian Gabriel’s Runs in the Family is a road film for more than half of its 100+ minute running time, and what makes the course run smoothly are the affirmations that Varun gives to River. River needs those affirmations since a lot of things go wrong both on the road and at home. Plot wise, these challenges feel real and so do the solutions that Varun comes up with. These affirmation scenes capture great emotions.
River’s character is a drag performer with $50K in savings which, by the way no pre-Ru drag performer has that kind of money but I’m willing to suspend disbelief. As Runs in the Family incorporates drag in its plot, it also features that scene in South Africa that deserves a bigger spotlight. The film has its share of highs and lows. It also has twists that show layers within characters who are learning new things.