The family in Luis De Filippis’s assiduous new film keeps busy during their beachside vacation. Not by swimming and sunbathing but by bickering and nit-picking, over slights both big (what it means to quit school) and small (what it means to lose a card game).

Or maybe that’s just how Mona (Ramona Milano), her husband, Guido (Joey Parro), and their wayward 20-something daughters, Siena (Paige Evans) and Ren (Carmen Madonia), who is transgender, expresses love: by ending conversations with tears and exposed resentments, only to make nice and do it again the next day.

Loosely based on the writer-director’s own Canadian-Italian family, this intimately observational film is in no rush to capture oversized dramatics but also small moments, like a birthday celebration at a kitchen table. Its only real emotional punch comes when the sisters accuse each other of being the family’s biggest disappointment.

In the film’s press notes, De Filippis said she wanted to make a movie “where trans women are not vilified, sensationalized, or eroticized.” Mission accomplished. Ren, an aspiring writer, is decidedly human: impetuous, shy, silly — a victim of, if anything, insecurities.

But she’s earthbound to a fault, dramatically. Unexceptional transgender characters are arguably markers of cinema’s progress; Trace Lysette’s understated performance is what made her prosaic transgender character so moving in “Monica.” (That film was also invested in bigger stakes.) But one can only watch Renata, and this film, do so little for so long before yearning for more than naturalism and tenderness to drive the slice-of-life story.

Something You Said Last Night
Not rated. In English and Italian, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 36 minutes. In theaters.

Erik Piepenburg

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