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In recent years, the humble art of knitting has acquired an increasingly young, hip following for its supposedly therapeutic benefits — and finally has a film to show for it in “Close-Knit.” That’s not to trivialize the wider social issues of Naoko Ogigami’s gentle, sweet-souled celebration of alternative family structures, in which a maternally neglected young girl finds security in the care of her uncle and his transgender partner. But the knitting motif is one the film returns to repeatedly as a bonding metaphor, and one that’s wholly indicative of its snuggly feel-good appeal: This is a warm, practical, pastel-shaded cardigan of a film, even if, at over two hours, it gets a bit droopy in the sleeves. Some light cutting might make “Close-Knit” an even comfier fit for international distributors, particularly those specializing in LGBT fare.
Premiering in Berlin’s Panorama sidebar, where it has been overshadowed in conversation by Sebastian Lelio’s trans-themed Competition entry “A Fantastic Woman,” “Close-Knit” further demonstrates the growing prominence and broader acceptance of transgender narratives in the arthouse. Reminiscent of Hirokazu Koreeda at his most crowd-pleasing, the film should play without hindrance to a general audience in its emotional appeal. But that’s not to deny the quiet candor with which Ogigama explores alternative sexual and gender identities — particularly as viewed through the inquisitive eyes of 11-year-old Tomo, who’s of the age where a man choosing to become a woman can seem intriguingly novel and, at the same time, no big deal. (With a child’s lack of modesty, Tomo is cheerfully unafraid to ask what happens to the penis in a male-to-female sex-change operation — which is more than some coy filmmakers addressing the subject have done.)
After being neglected by her mother, a little girl is taken in by her uncle and his transgender girlfriend, who create a loving home for her.
Berlin Film Review: ‘Close–Knit’. A transgender woman becomes a mother figure to a neglected young girl in Naoko Ogigami’s sensitive, blossom-scented family yarn.