DVD Movie Review: The Transfiguration

By Thom Compton 18.11.2017

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The Transfiguration (UK Rating: 15)

To fully appreciate what The Transfiguration does, one must go into it with the right mindset. While the film toys with horror, it is much more accurate to refer to it as a drama. Following vampire obsessed Milo, a young orphan living with his older brother, this film tackles several subjects. Abuse, optimism, gang violence, love, and moving on are all important themes The Transfiguration attempts to address, and for the most part, it does this splendidly. Unfortunately, its shortcomings are too abundant, and too obvious, to simply ignore. After a run in cinemas back in April via Thunderbird Releasing, the movie landed on DVD in August, and Cubed3 checks out whether you should dash out to pick it up.

Milo (Eric Ruffon) is an outcast. The kids at his school chase him and bully him, just as a gang in his neighbourhood does. Milo finds solace in vampires, being an absolute savant when it comes to not only their history in cinema, but also them as creatures. One day, when returning home, he meets Sophie (Chloe Levine), a girl who is just moving into his apartment building. She is, much like Milo, an orphan, moving in with her grandfather, an abusive old man. Their relationship is interesting to follow, as it feels natural.


 
Milo, however, has a secret life that he leads. As the film opens, viewers get to see Milo sucking the blood out of a man's neck in a bathroom stall. He follows patterns as he kills other people, seemingly needing to keep a good schedule to ensure he kills regularly. This storyline comes with some difficult to answer questions that make the film both more powerful and weaker… but more on that in a bit.

This is because the central theme seems to be Milo, a young man, balancing his home life, his love life, and his secret life, over the course of one summer. Milo is clearly a disturbed teenager, having witnessed an unspeakable tragedy. Director Michael O'Shea frames the tragedy well, leaving the audience with fleeting glimpses of what happened, and what seemingly led Milo down the path he is on. This works even better when, a little under halfway through, an event occurs that changes the whole dynamic of the movie.

Really, The Transfiguration gets most of its strength through its ambiguity. For most of the film, you might wonder if Milo is, indeed, a vampire, and that O'Shea is redefining the rules here. Morally, though, Milo does things that are truly bad. There's no doubt about it. However, the film never forces you to decide how to feel about him, as he usually follows up doing something bad by doing something good. However, it isn't just here that the film manages to succeed.

The Transfiguration deals with everything in a very unvarnished way. Things just are. Milo's mental state may be the result of his environment, or the myriad of tragedies he's had to suffer, but it feels like O'Shea either feels unqualified, or that it's not his place to answer. Milo and Sophie being in an interracial relationship is merely coincidence, hardly important enough for anyone in the film to bring it up, beyond mentioning she's a white girl on occasion, and wondering why she lives in the neighbourhood. What's more important is how Milo responds to these things.

Milo couldn't care less that Sophie is white, nor does he seek to blame the world around him for his faults. After witnessing a rather violent act committed by the gang in his neighbourhood, he knows he has to keep quiet, as he can't be perceived as a snitch. Milo feels like a real human being, as do most of the characters. No one feels like a sketch or caricature, instead feeling honest and raw, and the picture is all the better for it.


 
Even the violence is remarkably sparse, used as a reminder that Milo's demons are very real, and very threatening. Again, it isn't made clear whether or not he is a vampire until the very end. Michael O'Shea has crafted a thoughtful film that, instead of making statements, frames one young man's experience, and allows you to come up with those statements on your own. It's fantastic, and so uncommon in film these days, because The Transfiguration never tells you how to feel, it simply sets the facts in front of you, hoping you will come to a conclusion as the events proceed. Thankfully, the performances are fantastic, and the writing is positively outstanding, so this is able to carry that naturalistic vibe safely over the finish line.

Sadly, though, it isn't without its blemishes. There are far too many scenes that come off as useless, mostly with Milo walking aimlessly, or going to the bathroom. Listening to him explain vampire movies can get tiresome, also, as he really focuses on one adjective to describe them most of the time. It almost becomes a catchphrase for the character, and that seems needless in this instance.

Also, the film has a hard time framing the motivations of some of the characters accurately. Milo's older brother, Lewis, comes off as both brash and caring, and it's hard to tell if he's using tough love sometimes, or he's just mean. The leader of the gang is also confusing, seemingly being a genuinely nice guy, while also being ruthless, and even occasionally kind of dumb.

The most annoying part, though, is the shaky cam. While this can make a film feel more raw and lifelike, here it gets distracting and frustrating. Too often, shots hang too long, making this effect all the more irritating than it was previously.

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10
In order for one to truly enjoy The Transfiguration, they must be willing to accept that the movie gives no easy answers. While it can occasionally be too ambiguous, the line it tows is honest and real. It deals with themes like race and class structure by being blunt and it deals with mental illness by making no excuses. If you want an honest opinion on the film, then, you're going to have to watch it for yourself. Why? Well, without witnessing the horror that Milo is privy to, it is difficult to say with any certainty you could come to your own conclusions. Fortunately, the film is all the better for it.

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