Milo is a young boy who develops a fascination with vampirism. In books, in movies, wherever he can seek out vampire knowledge he will obsessively seek out and consume it, much like he consumes the blood of his victims. He’s the boy who has outstayed his bloodshed for animals, instead favouring the real deal, the thick blood from his victim’s necks which he throws up anyway.
Like any boy – particularly a black kid growing up in the rough tower estates of the Bronx – he is marginalised for being a weirdo kid who doesn’t hang out with the others. But ever since his mother’s passing, him and his ex-military brother are neglected more than anything. Milo was there to find his mother’s dead body. It changed him into this other person.
Sophie enters into the story as Milo’s salvation, maybe finally the pair can make a connection that can save them both. Milo from his unending bloodlust and away from Sophie’s troubles with his abusive father and her resorting to prostitution.
Unfortunately, there’s very little to learn from Milo, other than his past tragedy, and some mild issues with the local gang posse. The majority of the film is spent witnessing Milo’s hunt for various random victims and besides two of the encounters, they largely play out the same, and without adding much significance to Milo’s story.
Sophie’s arc ends up being more of a chore as the script exposes the writer’s hand. With these various scenes of Milo going on dates and such with Sophie, they constantly babble on about works of vampire fiction which often goes too far in breaking the film’s immersion. Sophie constantly brings up the Twilight films all the time, and this happens throughout the film – admittedly with Milo’s complete disinterest – and while hearing Let the Right One In being referenced once seemed neat, the references become grating and pull this writer out of the film.
What’s most troubling is the film’s pacing, with Milo’s apathetic performance (something I’ll blame the director for), and Sophie’s sidesteps from the connective tissue we call plot. The film just says “and then, and then” over and over, when it should be saying “and this happens, which then leads to this, because this happened.” There’s no feeling of consequence for what’s happening through most of the film.
The ending also feels unfulfilling, where apparently Milo has a plan which involves framing the local gang. Except what we are shown a series of murders and coincidental occurrences that don’t feel planned, and so the ending doesn’t feel earned. There’s more to the ending and while there’s some closure to Sophie’s story, Milo’s comeuppance felt obvious but also dupes us as to thinking something deeper will happen for him, and it doesn’t.
What the Transfiguration gets right is its social-modernist approach to depicting its black lead. But what it lacks is a narrative through-line that’s more ambitious than a disturbed kid does some messed up stuff, plotting that doesn’t naturally tie together elements, nor does it thread it out in a way that feels compelling or exciting to experience. Plus those godawful references that just pull you right out of the film.
Dir: Michael O’Shea
Scr: Michael O’Shea
Cast: Eric Ruffin, Chloe Levine, Aaron Moten, Carter Redwood, Phyillicia Bishop, Dangelo Bonneli, Larry Fessenden, Danny Flaherty, Anna Friedman, Lloyd Kaufman, Jaquan Kelly
DOP: Sung Rae Cho
Prd: Susan Leber, Billy Mulligan
Music: Margaret Chardiet
Running Time: 97 mins
The Transfiguration is out released in cinemas 21st April.