E L I provides a brief glimpse into the life of a transgender man, and what his life has been like since he started transitioning.
In recent times, as society at large has become (arguably) more accepting of those in the LGBT+ community, we’ve begun to see an increase in homosexual representation in the media. However, for many who are not in the LGBT+ community, that one gay character in their favorite sit-com may be their only exposure to LGBT+ people, allowing the community at large to exist as an abstraction in their mind, in that while they know LGBT+ people exist, they may not personally know any LGBT+ people or have any insight into what it’s like to be gay in modern society. E L I seeks to change that, by providing a first person account of a transgender man’s transition and his life.
Stylistically, E L I sits somewhere between an interview and a documentary. The film is narrated by Elijah, the film’s subject, but it doesn’t feel as if his narration is being guided by an interviewer whose questions have been edited out so much as an interviewer who simply told him to tell his story, allowing him to focus on the parts of his story that he felt were the most important to tell. This freedom within the narration serves to make Elijah’s story more personable, in that it showed that Elijah is a real person, not just some interview subject who doesn’t have a life outside of this film. By talking about his interest in skating and his work, Elijah reminds the audience being transgender isn’t the only or even necessarily the most important part of his life. It is a part of his life in the same way his hobbies and job are.
From a technical standpoint, E L I is a very well constructed film. By cutting between shots of Elijah telling his story and shots of him going about his day, the film is made to feel very casual, as if the audience were just hanging out with Elijah and he is telling a story, rather than watching a carefully edited film, which ultimately allows the message of the film to be related to the audience much more naturally, rather than didactically.
While E L I doesn’t directly address any commonly held misconceptions about the LGBT+ community or about transgender people specifically, by providing such a personable glimpse into one trans person’s life, the film lays the groundwork for otherwise uninformed people to begin to educate themselves. Beyond that, parts of Elijah’s story, such as his explanation his daily applications of testosterone gel serve to remind audiences that transitioning isn’t something that is simply done once, or even necessarily easy to do, but rather a long process that requires daily attention and work.
Beyond that, while Elijah talks about the people in his life who were supportive when he came out of the closet and through his beginning of the transitioning process, it is important to remember that E L I provides the audience with only one person’s story, and that not every trans person has such a support group.
Overall, E L I is a very effective and a very well made film, one which gives viewers a quick and personable look into the life of one member of a marginalized group, a group with which many viewers may not have any personal experience. While E L I isn’t necessarily the most informative film about the LGBT+ community or what life as a transgender person is like, it is a great film for people who may not have that much information to start with.