Dawn, Her Dad & the Tractor is awaiting a UK release date.
Last year’s BFI Flare would see one film encapsulate the challenges of returning home as a confident trans adult more than any other; that film was Rūrangi. In Max Currie’s feature, a trans man would return home after ten years away to reconcile with their father. However, their journey was also wrapped in the need to find community healing as they reconnected with their home town in a journey of freedom and rebirth. These themes of home, peace, security and reconciliation also find a voice in this year’s Flare offering of Dawn, Her Dad & the Tractor.
Dawn (Maya Henry) is heading home following her mother’s sudden death, but her mind whirs with doubts and fears as she approaches the family farm. After all, a lot has changed since she left, with her late mother, the only family member who was privy to her transition and transformation into a strong young trans woman.
READ MORE: RŪRANGI
As Dawn arrives, her sister Tammy (Amy Groening), boyfriend Byron (Reid Price), and dad John (Robb Wells) look on in disbelief, their minds unable to process the beautiful young woman who stands before them. But as the wake and funeral of their dearly departed mum and wife loom, healing, strength, and togetherness will slowly build through the unexpected renovation of a beloved antique tractor. However, in a small town where everyone knows each other’s business, Dawn will also have to face the spectre of discrimination and hate as she battles to find her place once more.
Director and screenwriter Shelly Thompson builds upon her own experiences as the mother of a trans son in shaping Dawn’s world. Here Thompson brings a poignant and sincere warmth to themes of family reconciliation and unconditional love. While at the same time, newcomer Maya Henry captures Dawn’s need for healing and acceptance alongside her defiance and inner strength in an assured and refined central performance.
While Dawn, Her Dad & the Tractor may never equal the dramatic clout of Currie’s Rūrangi, it does offer us something uniquely different. Thompson’s movie is squarely aimed at a family audience, and while it may touch on themes of oppression and hate, the darkness is never allowed to consume the light. Here Thompson wants to leave her audience with a sense of optimism surrounding the ability of families to heal and grow. However, this also comes at a price as Dawn’s journey occasionally skirts the realities many trans people face as they return home.
READ MORE: TRANS TRAILBLAZERS
As a result, Dawn, Her Dad & the Tractor occasionally treats its target family audience with kid gloves in a film where sentimentality often shields the viewer from reality. But equally, there is no denying the warmth and sincerity in Thompson’s core message or the beautiful cinematography on display from Kevin A. Fraser and Frank Adam Novak.
The resulting film firmly plays to its intended audience but equally lacks depth, as Dawn’s journey is wrapped in a soft blanket of love that occasionally feels overly sentimental. Here the darker elements and challenges of her journey are never allowed space to fully develop in an attempt to leave the audience bathed in the warm, soft glow of the Canadian summer sun. However, as a directorial debut, there is much to admire and love in this story of family healing, rebirth and community belonging. Here Thompson’s passion and creativity shine through the minor faults, as does her core vision of bringing trans journeys to a broad family audience.
READ MORE: BFI FLARE SHORTS
Dawn, Her Dad & the Tractor occasionally treats its target family audience with kid gloves in a film where sentimentality often shields the viewer from reality. But equally, there is no denying the Canadian warmth and sincerity in Thompson’s core messages.