The Most Dangerous Year, directed by Vlada Knowlton, is a new documentary film promoting LGBTQ rights that tells the equally heartbreaking and inspiring story of a group of families with transgender children as they fight against discriminatory legislation that is threatening to take hold of their home state.
This movie is undeniably going to be controversial and the Knowlton does not shy away from that controversy. This isn’t a subtle and agreeable film meant to change minds about the subject matter — it is an aggressive movie that hopes to convince people who already agree with this position to take action. In that regard, it works.
Perhaps the most interesting and effective thing that this film does to help the audience connect with the material is comparing the discrimination being faced by transgender people to the discrimination faced by people of color during the Civil Rights era. By drawing comparisons between a sadly underexposed issue and a historical issue of which we are all aware, Knowlton is able to make the movie feel important, even to those who aren’t affected directly by the story.
Knowlton also does an excellent job of making the audience feel a personal connection to the subjects of the film. A significant part of the beginning of the movie is spent introducing us to the people involved in the story before the “bathroom ban” is even introduced to us, and that helps make the film even more impactful.
One would have to be heartless not to feel bad for these kids for what they’re going through. They are getting bullied at school and are being discriminated against for their identity. Even if you don’t support LGBTQ rights, you have to admit that this is sad. The movie uses this inherent emotion to its advantage, making the story hit harder without pulling on your heartstrings artificially.
Knowlton’s film is very deliberately paced to keep the audience’s interest and deliver its message. The intro of the movie is used to hook you into the story and character arcs and then the rest of the film plays out in a compelling and thrilling way as we follow the characters in their activism.
On a technical level, this movie was mostly solid. The cinematography and score give the film a natural rhythm that helps draw the audience into the story even more. However, the editing is a little less consistently effective. On-screen graphics are used frequently to present headlines and excerpts of news articles, and these are often more distracting than beneficial to the story.
In many ways, The Most Dangerous Year is a well-made and compelling documentary. As Knowlton’s feature-length debut, this is an accomplished and effective movie that shows she has plenty more to bring to the table.
The Most Dangerous Year is now on DVD and VOD.