“It doesn’t get easier. No matter what level you’re at.”
Nobody Passes Perfectly is the 2009 Danish documentary about gender identity directed by Saskia Bisp.
Thought provoking and tender, it examines the lives of two people who are at different stages in discovering and defining their gender identities: Erik Hansen, who is in a committed relationship with a lesbian, and Tomka Weiss who has already begun the physical transformation from biological woman to man.
Nobody Passes Perfectly has a fictional realness to it that I attribute to its conversational tone and scene construction. By which I mean, none of the subjects are looking into a camera telling the audience about their lives a la traditional documentary styling. Instead, they are simply living their lives and we, as an audience, get to eavesdrop. I think the result elevates the film, making it’s subject matter more accessible.
Told in a mosaic style, Nobody Passes Perfectly presents various viewpoints on the difficulties Erik and Tomka have already overcome and posits questions about the future of each. If Erik continues to transition, will his longtime girlfriend remain at his side? Self-identified as a lesbian, Erik’s girlfriend begins to voice her doubts and concerns about the transition.
These scenes have an intimacy and vulnerability to them, inviting us to strip away our conceptions and open ourselves to thoughts on non-linear, non-traditional gender, sexuality. In a world where those who were diagnosed or identified as being transgendered were – until recently – considered to be mentally ill, it’s more important than ever to share these stories and continue having the conversations.
In Nobody Passes Perfectly, we have intelligent questions being posed about what it means to be a man and to be masculine and whether or not it even matters, without the focus being on the gender reassignment specifics. In that sense, Nobody Passes Perfectly is more of an emotional journey than a physical one. The greatest strength of Nobody Passes Perfectly is that it leaves you with unanswered questions and curiosity.
I would have liked to have seen more of a lead up to where the documentary begins, something that would help establish baselines for the stories being shared. It is as if Erik and Thomka’s stories did not truly begin until they started questioning who they were. But, maybe that’s the point. Starting in media res, as it were, works here but it doesn’t erase the curiosity that lingers as their stories begin to unfold.
Nobody Passes Perfectly is available for streaming now, at BuskFilms.