“Alice Júnior” Review: The Trans Girl Coming-of-Age Romcom of My Dreams

Stop what you’re doing right now! Well, okay, no, you can read to the end of this paragraph. But after that you are going to stop what you’re doing and watch Alice Júnior on Netflix. But, Drew, I’m reading this review during my lunch break and I have to get back to work. Sorry, you actually no longer have a job, your only job is to watch Alice Júnior and then return to this page to gush about it with me.

SPOILERS FOR ALICE JÚNIOR
SPOILERS FOR ALICE JÚNIOR
SPOILERS FOR ALICE JÚNIOR
SPOILERS FOR ALICE JÚNIOR
SPOILERS FOR ALICE JÚNIOR

Okay, phew, sorry, there was just no way I was going to be able to write this review without mentioning the ending. But also I couldn’t steal your joy by spoiling the ending! I’m sure you understand. Also, you’re welcome.

I watched the first 75 minutes of Gil Baroni’s new film Alice Júnior filled with giddy delight. I’ve seen a lot of movies with trans characters — a lot — and we simply do not get movies this joyful. This felt like trans Lady Bird by way of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World as it aesthetically mimics model/YouTuber Alice’s social media adolescence. There’s an energy from beginning to end — a playfulness — that felt fresh, and thoughtful, and so fucking fun.

Anne Celestino Mota is incredible as Alice, a character who would fit right in with the rebel girls of our late 90s/early 00s romcom favorites. She’s tough, but vulnerable. She’s fierce and funny and, most importantly, she feels real. She’s a teenage girl with needs and wants. She’s a teenage girl who needs basic respect and wants her first kiss.

Okay, so I was already eager to praise this movie for its aesthetics and its acting and its charm. I was eager to talk about Alice’s father as the model of a trans kid’s parent, about the way the movie shows the reality of transphobia without being exploitative, about decisions like giving Alice trans friends from back home and recreating the classic cis pool party scene through a trans lens and dozens of other little choices that usually are done so wrong but here are done so, so right. I was already beyond enthusiastic. And then the ending happened.

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When cool girl Taísa was introduced, I immediately clocked her as queer. But I clock people in movies as queer all the time to no avail. The spark between Alice and Taísa could’ve just been a spark between Anne Celestino Mota and Surya Amitrano who plays Taísa. I didn’t dare to hope for more. And then it’s revealed that Taísa is dating Alice’s new crush Bruno and that seemed to be that. Friends, rivals, but not lovers — of course not. As rare as it is to find good trans representation, it’s even rarer to find good queer trans woman representation. I’ve written about this extensively and I’ve grown accustomed to it. I felt more than satisfied with this delightful straight trans story. I got potential throuple vibes the whole movie, but I’ve been trained to expect far less than that level of queerness. In fact, I watched the film panicked that in the end Alice would end up kissing her bully or God forbid the movie take a tonal shift and end in her death — that is the depths of what I’ve come to expect.

When Alice and Bruno peck in the kissing game and Taísa stormed off, I let out a sigh of relief — and disappointment. I guess there was still a part of me that hoped for a throuple or some queerness but that desire retreated back to reality. But then Alice went into the bathroom. But then Alice apologized to Taísa. BUT THEN TAÍSA KISSED ALICE. BUT THEN THEY WERE MAKING OUT. I jumped off my bed screaming like I’d just witnessed an against-all-odds game-winning moment from a favorite sports team.

Do you all realize how RARE AND UNEXPECTED that was?? Boy Meets Girl has a sex scene between a trans woman and a cis woman but it leads to her ultimate romance with a cis man. Adam has a queer trans woman we see with various people but it’s just a subplot. Glen or Glenda focuses on a trans woman engaged to a cis woman but it’s complicated by its 1950s POV. So Pretty has transfeminine people in relationships with each other but its intentions are far more abstract than romance. Bit has a vampiric meet cute and a casual relationship between a trans woman and a cis woman but it’s not the focus of the film. And Better Than Chocolate and a handful of other movies have trans women with queer romances but they’re played by cis men. That is it. I just listed off all the queer trans women in the history of feature films.

Alice spends the whole movie daydreaming about her first kiss with a boy, but when Taísa’s lips touch her own, we see her sparkle — quite literally. Trans people experience compulsory heterosexuality just like everybody else. In fact, for years heterosexuality was flat-out a requirement for us to transition. So there’s something especially sweet about watching this person who spends the whole movie certain about her identity find that identity shaken in this way she never expected. The movie doesn’t end with Alice and Taísa riding off into the sunset, but it does end with Alice changed forever by this experience. It changed me too.

I can feel myself healing when I watch something as queer and trans and free and fun as Alice Júnior. I can feel myself trusting the voice in my head that tells me who I am. I can feel myself shaking off a few more of the voices that still tell me I’m wrong. And while my experience watching this movie was overwhelming, I felt even more overwhelmed imagining its discovery by trans teenagers. It’s on Netflix! They can just watch it! They can stumble upon it whether they know their identities or are still figuring them out or both. This movie feels made for them in style and content and it makes me emotional imagining it through their eyes.

If Netflix streaming existed when I was 16 and Alice Júnior had been available, I would have come out six years earlier. I can’t know that for sure, and yet I absolutely do. I’m so happy for all the 16 year olds that have what I didn’t have. I’m so happy that at 26 I have it now.

Drew is an LA-based writer, filmmaker, and theatremaker. Her writing can be found at Bright Wall/Dark Room, Cosmopolitan UK, Thrillist, I Heart Female Directors, and, of course, Autostraddle. She is currently working on a million film and TV projects mostly about trans lesbians. Find her on Twitter and Instagram @draw_gregory.

Drew has written 126 articles for us.

11 Comments

  1. Yes I LOVED this movie!!! I picked it on a whim at an online queer film festival (Inside Out in Toronto) and just fell in love with it. The ending is pure joy and I love the father-daughter relationship (esp the dad’s growth).
    Thank you for this review Drew!

  2. Yessss! Just watched it at your rec and loved it. Her dad! The turnaround of her relationship with Lino! The Taisa vibes turned throuple vibes turned surprise ending! And I also spent a few minutes dreading a possible plot with her bully who they definitely include a few shots of him making vibe-y eyes at her. Thanks for the rec! What a fun Friday night!

  3. what a PERFECT PERFECT MOVIE!!!!!! during the makeout scene i was screaming and clapping and dancing oh my god!!!!! my only complaint is that the party scene made me miss beautiful fun queer parties sooooo fucking much!

  4. Wow what a perfect movie!! It was so delightful and fun!!! I also immediately clocked Taísa as queer but as the movie went on I figured it’d be just wishful thinking and then they kissed and ahhhh!! The way her relationships grew with each of the characters throughout like Lino and Vivi and all the girls in class! The banding together of all the girls! Big Rita!! The dad and Lino’s mom in the bdsm porn basement Killed me! That ending scene with the five of them watching the sun and leaning on each other with their arms around each other gave me so many feelings! It’s so perfect I want to scream about all of it! So glad I saw your tweets about it being on Netflix Drew!

  5. i watched this movie with a friend on netflix party on your recommendation, and just now came back to read the review– thanks so much for telling us about it!

    i am very hopeful that we’ve entered an era where we can have fun, non-tragic trans movies. wouldn’t that be nice??

  6. i’m just watching this movie on repeat???

    and ready to watch the sequel of her hijinks with her friends in recife, where lino now lives too, and taina and big rita who are now a couple, but both still in love with alice, make the trip to visit in the big city…

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