Matt “Kroc” Kroczaleski was the embodiment of the type of masculinity featured in the 80s action movies starring his bodybuilding inspiration Arnold Schwarzenegger. A former high school football player turned U.S. Marine turned World-record weightlifter, Matt’s muscular physique ensured no one would dare challenge his authority. However, what few people were aware of was that his wall of muscles was shielding Matt’s true self.

When a Youtuber publicly outed Matt as the woman known as Janae on Instagram, the father of three was forced to confront a dual life that was once hidden. In Michael Del Monte’s intimate documentary Transformer, the audience observes as Matt begins transforming into Janae. A transition that she finds a much tougher challenge then when Matt was diagnosed with cancer years earlier.

Struggling to find a happy medium between the muscular build, that has been a safety blanket for so long and her desire for more feminine features, Janae also must deal with the harsh reality of being a transgender individual. She faces discrimination both publicly and professionally, loses sponsors, is banned from competing, and finds her relationship with her parents becoming increasingly strained.

Del Monte constructs a tender meditation on what it means to be true to yourself. Transformer is most touching when we see Janae interacting with her three boys, who have been supportive of her transition long before the world knew about it. In these moments Del Monte reminds us that regardless of gender definitions and physical appearances, Janae has the same goals and aspirations for happiness that we all have. Her vulnerability and concerns for her family, career and potential romantic relationships are all things viewers will identify with.

Transformer does not preach to the audience or aim for any grand political statements. Instead it is through its intimate approach that the film speaks volumes about the need for acceptance and understanding in every aspect of society.

Thursday, May 3, 8:15 PM, Scotiabank Theatre