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RUNS IN THE FAMILY

1h 47m
Comedy Drama, LGBTQIA+
0.00

Synopsis

Varun Chetty’s ordered life as the local tailor is turned upside down when he receives a call for help from Monica, his long-lost ex-girlfriend and mother of his now-adult transgender son, River. Harbouring resentment at his mother’s abandonment, River at first refuses to help his father with his dubious plan to break Monica out of the rehab clinic, especially because River is in the midst of preparations for a duet with his best friend, Ollie, for a major national talent show, eyes set firmly on the cash prize that will finally afford him his gender-affirming surgery.

However, seeing his idealist old man desperate to reconnect the family stirs up just enough empathy in River to sway him, and soon the father-son duo embark on their cross-country roadtrip to the rescue, taking Varun’s valued carpet with them in case any unexpected bribery is called for along the way.

During the road trip, Varun and River bond over the similarities and differences of their youths, comparing notes between Varun’s days as a hip, young Indian grifter in a team of small-time con artists trying to beat the system during South Africa’s infamous struggle years, and River’s experience as a gay transgender Gen Z drag queen figuring out the path he’d like to forge in this life.

Because River is still waiting for his new ID, the two must climb the border fence into eSwatini, where they hitch a ride with Shaunice, a feisty young woman grieving a breakup. Intrigued by the unlikely pair’s adventurous quest, she agrees to escort them to the clinic to secure Monica’s release.

But when Monica finally comes face-to-face with her getaway gang, she mistakes Shaunice for her child, recalling that she specifically left Varun with a baby “girl”.  As such, Monica and River are off to a rough start. Nevertheless, the group head back across the eSwatini-South Africa border and bid farewell to Shaunice. 

When River’s phone reconnects to the SA network, he discovers that Ollie has suffered an injury and can no longer compete. River blows up, all hope of winning the necessary prize money now seems lost. But this turns out to be an opportunity for Monica to begin making amends – as she offers up the novel idea of Varun as an alternate for River’s drag partner. As Monica drives, River coaches Varun through a high speed drag bootcamp and slowly but surely, a warmer emotional bond develops between the odd and estranged family unit.

On the morning of the competition, Ollie finesses River and Varun’s last-minute rehearsal and fitting before they take to the stage alongside an impressive array of South Africa’s top drag artists. Back in the change room after a strong showing, however, River comes to the devastating realisation that his long-lost mother has not changed her grifting ways. It’s a sucker punch that drives a wedge between River and Varun and threatens the bond they’ve worked so hard to build.