After the unexpected death of his father, Ulysses (played by promising newcomer Luka Kain), a shy, gender-nonconforming teen, faces a sudden onslaught of painful realities at home. His mom, exhausted from back-to-back shifts, enlists the help of her strict, religious aunt Rose to oversee him and his younger brother. Already a target of locker-room bullies at school, Ulysses now must endure Rose’s wrath after she catches him trying on his mom’s nylon stockings and high heels.
Fed up and out of ideas, he flees to the Village and finds on the New York City piers a feisty but inclusive gathering of trans and queer youths who shepherd him into the sanctuary that is Saturday Church, a local drop-in space — run by a kind and street-smart volunteer (Kate Bornstein) — that also happens to throw the fiercest voguing event in town. The electric atmosphere, reminiscent of the glorious ballroom vibrancy of Kiki (Frameline40), ignites in Ulysses a powerful and much-needed jolt of self-discovery, helped along by flirtatious back-and-forths with Raymond, a handsome and sensitive churchgoer he meets.
As Ulysses’s internal world awakens, so too does Saturday Church, shifting in tone and style from the muted, somber shadings of Ulysses’s home into a celebratory escapist space teeming with fabulous musical numbers, gender-bending costumes, and set designs covered in rainbow flower petals. But despite his newfound refuge, Ulysses can’t keep reality from eventually crashing the party. He must confront, with both defiance and forgiveness, the closed-minded constraints of his own family while continuing to foster a beautiful, budding identity eager to shine and slay on the ballroom floor.
— HARRY VAUGHN
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- Premiere Status: West Coast