“Mutt”: The Best Film at Sundance 2023


Will Teare

Director: Vok Lugulov-Klotz

Starring: Lío Mehiel, Cole Doman, with MiMi Ryder, and Alejandro Goic

Rating: 4.5/5

I don’t know a lot of transgender film directors. I know Lilly and Lana Wachowski of course but my knowledge peters out after that. Now, part of this is because I must educate myself more but a lot of it is because trans people don’t typically get the opportunity to make movies. Since realizing this, I’ve been on the lookout for anything by a trans artist in hopes to shed some light on it. I wanted to find a great name to add to the list. Then, on a dark and cold afternoon in Park City, Utah…

“Mutt” is about Feña (a spellbinding Lío Mehiel), a trans man in New York City whose life gets turned upside down when three people come to see him after not being in contact post-transitioning. He’s visited by his straight ex-boyfriend, his teenage half-sister, and his foreign father. 

It’s been a minute since I walked out of Eccles Theater on the World Premiere of Mutt. Enough time for me to move on entirely. But “Mutt” stayed with me. What struck me so deeply on my first watch was how intimate it was. Intimate emotionally for sure, but almost more so physically. Its attention to queer bodies and how people, both cis and otherwise, reference what it is to physically be trans was fascinating. It’s a gorgeous portrait of a day in a life of what it’s like to exist in Feña’s body and the world around him that enraptured me for its brief 87-minute run time. Anyone who’ll push this off as a preachy film is sorely mistaken. Yes, it’s about being a bi-racial trans man, but at its core, it’s just human. It’s the humanity, relationships, and love that shine through made-up gender norms and constructs. 

Source: Sundance Institute

The heart of this story is the newcomer to the big screen, Lío Mehiel. Mehiel won the Special Jury Prize at Sundance for their performance and wow is it deserved. Feña is more than a victim of the circumstance of this story, he’s a fighter. He’s fighting every day for the right to exist and to love and we see how strong he is. But what’s cooler is that we see him care and protect. Most of the truly tender moments of the film are between Feña and his sister. His sister is young and is the only person who truly attempts to connect with Feña. Feña responds, trying to give advice and teach her how to go about the world. Beyond gender, it’s just an older sibling looking out for the younger one. It really touched me and I made sure to check in on my own sister after the film to see how she was doing.

The parts with the father and ex-boyfriend are more turbulent but fully realized as a confused love. Each side struggles to understand the other, believing that a lack of understanding is in the way of love. An ex getting over a lost relationship and a father is scared at the idea that his daughter is gone. But that’s not true. That partner still exists and a father still has their child. Love in any form can still prosper in the face of adversity. That’s what this film means to me. 

Lana Wachowski, Lily Wachowski…Vok Lugulov-Klotz.