Runs in the Family perfectly captures the ups and downs seen in every dysfunctional family

Isha Kurian
Updated On
New Update
Runs in the Family perfectly captures the ups and downs seen in every dysfunctional family

A father-son road trip across South Africa to break their mom out of rehab, what could go wrong? This feel-good family drama is surely going to leave you appreciating family a whole lot more!  

Put simply, “Runs In The Family” tells the story of a family reunion gone slightly wrong. Varun, played by Ace Bhatti and River, played by Gabe Gabriel, travel across South Africa to break Varun’s ex-girlfriend and River's mum, Monica, played by Diaan Lawrenson, out of a rehabilitation centre. Varun is a personal tailor, who has had a rough past that includes drugs, alcohol and a fair share of cons. However, he chooses to leave this life behind after his transmasculine son, River's birth. Monica, however, chooses to abandon River and run away, leaving Varun to be a single dad. Varun, however, never let River feel the absence of his mum. A doting father who would go through hell and back for his son, Varun’s character may bring you to tears when you see the amount of love he has for River and what he’s willing to do for him. 

Also Read: 10 Indian queer movies you might not have watched

River has a career as a drag queen and along with his best friend, Ollie, played by Cleo Wesley, has registered to participate in a drag show competition for which the prize money would be 50,000 dollars. River desperately needs this money for his surgery to complete his transition. It is at this time that Varun receives a message from his old flame, requesting him to get her out of her rehabilitation centre. He requests River for his help to help get Monica out of rehab and River reluctantly agrees. The two then set off in Varun’s iconic Volkswagen microbus in search of Monica. After reaching the rehabilitation centre, River meets his mother for the first time. After having been away for over 2 decades, Monica is taken aback when she sees that River has come out as trans and makes a few transphobic comments along the way. However, the two put their differences aside and for a few, fleeting moments, they feel like an actual family once again. 

Tragedy strikes when River finds out Ollie has hurt themselves and wouldn’t be able to take part in the drag competition. Varun emerges a saviour in disguise when the group comes up with the brilliant idea to enrol Varun as River’s partner instead of Ollie. On their journey back, River teaches Varun how to be a drag queen and is determined to convert his cisgender heterosexual dad to drag superstar. It is at this point of the movie that I found myself getting rather emotional.

Varun ended up being my favorite character in the film simply because of his determination to make a good life for his son. Being an Indian dad who is so accepting of his son’s transition is something that isn’t seen too often in today’s society and the beautiful bond they share is bound to tug at your heartstrings. River, at first, comes off a bit selfish and self centred. However, this behaviour of his is fully justified along the way. It’s almost a good kind of selfishness because without his commitment and resilience, Varun would’ve never gotten the confidence to perform alongside his son. He’s the kind of character you simply end up falling in love with. His sweet and loving personality alongside Varun’s goofy and dotting dad one is the kind of chemistry that is hard to portray so well on screen.

The most moving part of this film is that the movie is directed by Gabe Gabriel’s real father, Ian Gabriel. Gabe Gabriel came out as trans in 2019 and this film is a sort of symbolic representation of their journey together as father and son and how they navigated his coming out together, as a family. 

Gabe Gabriel in an interview with Variety magazine said, “Writing something so close to home, yet fictional, was an interesting new challenge. While based on my own complex, but positive relationship with my father as a young trans man coming into his own in South Africa, the story had to eventually separate itself from us and become its own magical thing in order to really take off. I took anecdotes from my life and my real father’s life and the qualities of our relationship and infused them into these fictional characters in order to both humanize them and make them interesting and specific and kind of quirky. One of my main goals was to represent something I have in real life but have never seen before in tv and film – a positive father-and-trans son relationship. - not sure we should mention this.

This film was showcased at Kashish Film Festival 2023.

For more entertainment, follow us on @socialketchupbinge

Film Review Queer community lgbtqia+ representation trans community Queer representation on OTT queer films to watch