Review by Sean Boelman
Luis De Filippis’s debut Something You Said Last Night won the Changemaker Award at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival, signifying that it has a noteworthy social message. A quietly resonant film, Something You Said Last Night is subtle to a fault, sometimes losing its focus in the search of nuance, but mostly effective nonetheless.
The movie follows a twenty-something trans woman who accompanies her family on a beach vacation despite the fact that she doesn’t really feel a connection to her family anymore. An expansion of De Filippis’s short, For Nonna Anna, it’s a very unique approach to a genre that has a lot of entries.
What sets Something You Said Last Night apart is that it is a trans story that isn’t necessarily about being trans. While being trans is a fundamental part of the protagonist’s identity, the film isn’t about gender transition and she is experiencing a conflict beyond her identity. This is the next step towards positive representation: normalization.
Granted, the movie does struggle to find its footing and its purpose. Eventually, it settles on being a dissection of the family dynamic, and it’s a pretty solid one at that. De Filippis isn’t saying anything that hasn’t been said before, but she approaches the themes in a way that is honest, authentic, and resonant.
What De Filippis succeeds at the most is creating an effective atmosphere in the film. The movie wavers between being a fun portrait of a family on vacation and a tense one of a family in turmoil. Yet the film feels refreshingly trope-free, staying away from the melodramatic pitfalls that all too often plague family dramas.
The one thing that does hold the movie back is its character development. The protagonist is obviously very compelling, but it’s difficult to get a read on her family. It seems to be the purpose that we are supposed to have mixed feelings about them, but rather than mixed feelings, we end up feeling ambivalent and disconnected from them.
However, Carmen Madonia’s lead performance is tender in a way that absolutely carries the film. Given that there isn’t a whole lot of external conflict throughout, the movie was very much on the shoulders of Madonia to sell the emotional stakes, and she pulls it off in a way that is quite nuanced and naturalistic.
Something You Said Last Night is definitely very noteworthy for its representation, even if it doesn’t have as much weight as one would like. Still, Luis De Filippis is a new voice to watch, as this is a very strong feature debut.
Something You Said Last Night screened at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival, which ran September 8-18.