The lead performances in The Danish Girl had been attracting buzz since the announcement of the cast. As the film itself finally arrives, it shows the buzz has been truly deserved as this film is very much anchored by the partnership of Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander.
The film tells the true story of Lily Elbe, one of the first people known to have undergone gender reassignment surgery. It follows Lily from her realization and admittance, as Einar Wegener, that she was really a woman, to the surgery, and her eventual death. It also focuses just as much on her wife, Gerda’s, story, exploring how the transition affected her and their relationship as well.
The two principles give powerhouse performances, bringing the characters to life with such depth and emotionality that it is impossible not to become involved in their story. Redmayne once again gives a transformative performance, physically embodying Lily as she is slowly revealed, as well as brilliantly exuding Einar’s inner struggle as he opens himself to Lily. Very much Redmayne’s equal, Vikander provides the film with much of its strong, emotional grounding, be it in the quiet moments of subtlety or outbursts of pain and anger, she delivers arguably her strongest performance in a year of excellent breakout roles. The twosome of Redmayne and Vikander ensures the audience is absorbed into their situation and feels every moment with them, elevating the film to greater heights.
As usual, director Tom Hooper and cinematographer Danny Cohen work expertly together to create a gentle, yet at times striking, atmosphere in the film. Their styles meld beautifully to heighten the emotional depth of the film as well as help to explore the psychology of the characters as the film’s events unfold.
Whilst the film is filled with emotional energy, it often feels slightly fleeting. The film, for what it is, passes at quite a brisk pace, whisking the audience from one scene to the next with little lingering or moments of stillness to allow the audience to contemplate the situation and fully absorb the meaning of what they have just watched. This may mean it leads to a less fulfilling experience for some of the audience, and takes away a little from the character study aspect of the film, possibly making it feel a little too ‘glossy’ or main for more commercial appeal.
However, Hooper handles the matters at hand delicately, careful not to move into the realm of ‘cheesiness’, yet still crafting a heartfelt tale. This makes for a touching ending to the film, creating a solid and satisfying resolution that will likely tug at the heartstrings of many who watch it.
Overall, the film is well crafted and boasts two of the best performances of the year, yet may be a little too traditional in its making to have a long-lasting impact.