Written by Yosra Osman


Review: The Danish Girl

Eddie Redmayne’s performance as one of the first people to undergo gender reassignment surgery is inspiring a lot of Oscar talk, but is it any good? Our film buff Yosra Osman took a look.

Will The Danish Girl win over this year's Oscar judges? Photo by Agatha A Nitecka.

Will The Danish Girl win over this year’s Oscar judges? Photo by Agatha A Nitecka.

Every year, as Christmas and New Year frivolities come to an end, a trend hits January to go along with diets and forced sobriety: Oscar season. This is the time of year in which cinema gets serious and the major awards players start flying in left, right and centre.

So let’s turn our attention away from Star Wars, and focus on some of the films you may be hearing a lot about over the next few weeks.

Nominated for five BAFTAs, The Danish Girl is the new drama by Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, Les Misérables), starring Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander. It tells a very important tale: the true story of Lili Elbe (Redmayne), born Einar Wegener, a transgender artist and one of the first people to undergo gender-reassignment surgery. We are also introduced to Gerda, Elbe’s wife, who, though at first happy to go along with dressing her husband in female clothes and painting her, struggles to cope with the loss of the man she married.

From the media’s fascination with Caitlyn Jenner to the excellent TV series Transparent, transgender themes are more in the spotlight than ever before. The Danish Girl’s big-screen treatment of such issues is an excellent opportunity to bring them to life.

“Alicia Vikander’s work as fellow artist and troubled – but still ever so loving – wife Gerda is a triumph.”

To a point, the film does this well. Some of the best moments come when Lili explains exactly how she doesn’t feel right as Einar; she feels that, inside, she truly is Lili. Redmayne handles this side of the character with great sincerity, to the point where the slightly over-the-top elements of his performance can be overlooked.

And indeed a lot of the film’s attention will be directed towards Redmayne’s performance, as he makes another astounding transformation following his turn as Stephen Hawking in last year’s The Theory of Everything.

For me, however, it is Vikander who really comes through. Her work as fellow artist and troubled – but still ever so loving – wife Gerda is a triumph. With this and her performance in the brilliant Ex Machina, she really is becoming a very exciting actress.

The Danish Girl has all the great basic elements; a fascinating story and brilliant cast, but there is something a little off-putting. Tom Hooper paints a pretty picture, with many scenes having the same artistic flair and appeal as The King’s Speech, but that perhaps is where the problem lies: said picture is so pretty that it tends to gloss over some of the real complexities. The film is beautifully designed, with an approach that masks the true hardships of Lili’s story, and for some this might be problematic. Nevertheless, it is a look into a captivating story that very much needs to be told, and at least is done so movingly and with real charm.


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Written by Yosra Osman

Yosra Osman is a mid-twenties film fan and self-confessed daydreamer of dangerous proportions