Pretty Red Dress is a poignant necessary exploration of femme presenting masculinity.
Pretty Red Dress, directed and written by Dionne Edwards, becomes a beautiful depiction of Travis (Natey Jones) breaking down gender norms and embracing himself by wearing a sparkly dress and makeup.
Pretty Red Dress was screened as part of the BFI London Film Festival 2022 where it had its world premiere. All words of this review were written entirely by the writers at Cinamore.
Told entirely in and around the South London area, and in partnership with the handheld camera elements, audiences feel as if secretly invited into Travis’ mind to uncover his inner truth whilst navigating his relationship with wife Candice (Alexandra Burke) and rebellious teen Kenisha (Temilola Olatunbosun) after returning home from prison.
While the film primarily centres on Travis and the titular red dress, the sub-plots grow throughout to become as important. Candice, an actress who lacks confidence but has the chance to perform as Tina Turner on the West End, and Kenisha, a closeted boisterous teen struggling with her own identity let alone her father’s.
Yet all three characters find symbolism in this same red sequinned dress. Travis initially buys it as a present to Candice, a symbol of care and appreciation. For Candice, the dress is a means for her to feel akin to Tina Turner for her auditions, and for Kenisha, it’s a constant reminder of the femininity she knows she doesn’t get. So when Travis is caught wearing the dress, all their notions of identity and self are challenged.
Most notably, every actor appearing leading Pretty Red Dress is their debut performance for a feature film, with each scene being polished and delivered with excellence as if they mastered the art decades ago.
Regrettably, while Pretty Red Dress never passes commentary on Travis’ desire to look beautiful through his femme-confidence, it, unfortunately, may be misinterpreted by its audience as comical, with some during the screening laughing at a tender transformation.
Of course, it is to be expected for a film that challenges pre-conceived notions of masculine and feminine presentations, however, when we the audience are witness to such a vulnerable tender moment, to find comedy where there is none could become an issue as the message becomes diluted through word of mouth.
There are of course moments of joyous humour as one would expect when capturing a family’s home, but each time Travis finds sanctity in the thread, it is a beautiful sensitive moment that Travis wishes he could stay in, untampered by society.
Everyone should watch Pretty Red Dress. Whether to have their ideas of societal norms challenged, or whether to see men embracing an element of their character they had repressed and told to bury deep, it is a necessary watch with its cast becoming ones to watch in years to come.
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