September Mornings is a grounded, authentic slice of life drama from Brazil, exploring the trans experience through a revelatory lead performance.
This review of September Mornings is spoiler-free.
In Amazon Prime’s new five-episode drama September Mornings, Brazilian soul singer Liniker makes her acting debut as Cassandra, a trans woman eking out a stressful life between working as a courier, performing personally significant musical hits at bars during the night-time, maintaining a flimsy relationship with boyfriend Ivaldo (Thomas Aquino), and navigating the rigors of a social climate within which simply existing is a hard-fought battle. And this is all before an ex-lover named Leide (Karine Teles) reveals to Cassandra that she might be the mother of Gersinho (Gustavo Coelho).
Cassandra, who had a tough childhood herself, is thrown by the obvious isolation of Gersinho, not to mention the financial dire straits of him and Leide. In all this Cassandra is forced to re-evaluate her past but also her future against a backdrop of rampant xenophobia and poverty.
During a slow-burn opening portion, the story of September Mornings unfolds like a slice-of-life drama, leaning against authenticity and lived-in details in the setting and the trans experience to ground the characters in a recognizably real world. Liniker in the starring role is revelatory, able to sell the smaller frustrations of being misgendered and the bigger dramas of having one’s entire life uprooted with the same kind of unshowy effectiveness.
An obviously low-key Brazilian drama on a major streaming platform like Amazon Prime Video is unequivocally a good thing, whatever way you look at it, and September Mornings scores several casting coups and works to frankly display the trans experience for a mainstream audience. The cultural specificity of Brazil is there, but the universality of the themes of acceptance and xenophobia will be powerfully, widely relevant to everyone who elects to give September Mornings a look. If nothing else, Liniker’s performance is the best argument yet for allowing trans people to tell their own stories in mainstream media.