“Everyone has the right to be who they are”. That’s how “The Confirmation” ends. While this should indeed be the case, that’s sadly not for everyone and especially not when you’re a transgender person. The problems and prejudices that transgender people face are now being brought back to our attention thanks to first time director Marie-Louise Damgaard. Her honest, emotional and eye-opening “The Confirmation” (original title: Konfirmanden) makes us aware that, despite living in the 21ste century, we’re not as modern and open-minded as we think.
Mathias (Xean Peake) is getting ready for one of the most important days of his life. It will be the end of his childhood but the beginning of being a man. It’s his confirmation during which he will confirm being a Christian and enter adulthood. What should be a joyful day full of celebration turns out to be the opposite. Mathias was born as a female and after many hormone therapies, he’s finally becoming the man he wants to be from the outside but not everyone seems to understand this. While his mother supports her son in the best way possible, they’re both being confronted by the preconceptions and criticism. It’s hard for their environment to see and accept Mathias as a man but still, they try to keep their head held high and try to prove that no matter which gender Mathias has, he will still be the sweet person they know. However, that’s easily being said than done and even more so during the confirmation…
It’s no surprise that “The Confirmation” was premiered at Inside Out Film Festival in Toronto and that it was loved by both critics and audiences during its festival run. While we should live in a society in which love, friendship and being who you want to be should be the norm, this is not happening for people who are “different” such as transgenders. This results in them feeling bad, hurting themselves or even worse. There’s of course also the religious aspect and whether or not, the Church would accept Mathias as a man. Movies like this one from Nielsen must reach as many people as possible so that maybe the injustice will be helped out of this world.
If you want to put such an important film out there, then you better make sure that you got support from the best team possible. That exactly what Nielsen got. She couldn’t only count on the support of producer and multiple Academy Award winner Kim Magnusson (“Helium”, “Valgaften”) but also on a stunning cast and crew. First of all, it’s cinematographer Robin Holtz (“Mennesker & meninger”, “Dem vi er”) that brings this movie to life in a vividly and colourful way which gives it that every day and ‘ordinary’ vibe. Also, the fact that both him and editor Laura Skiöld Østerud (“Herreløs”) didn’t choose for brusque and shocking transitions between scenes make us feel like we’re with Mathias and his mother in the same room.
Of course, that emotional connection between the leading characters and the audience needs to be on point when telling such a meaningful movie. That’s certainly present in “The Confirmation”. This story is about Mathias and his mom being affected by him being transgender and both Peake and Hillingsø (“Experimentet”, “Karla’s World”) give us an extraordinary performance. Hillingsø as the protective and loving but also heartbroken and distraught mother and Peake (who makes his film debut) as the overprotective and judged boy who just wants to be whoever he wants.
While Nielsen herself already started in film such as “Gælden” and “Your Flesh, Your Curse”, she’s now taking place in the director’s chair for the first time. Hopefully, we will be able to see her directing skills more as she made from “The Confirmation” a must-see, eye-opening, beautiful and well-performed movie about the prejudices transgender people have to face.
Celebrity and Film Reporter – Liselotte Vanophem