As far as directors go, it doesn’t get much more middle-of-the-road than Tom Hooper. His films tend to feature clear-cut, identifiable conflicts sketched out in studied, orderly lines and relayed with an extra helping of heart. Coherent, approachable, emphatically inoffensive, they often prove difficult to discredit except for being just so exasperatingly… pleasant. With The Danish Girl, the story of a transgender woman and one of the first recorded recipients of sex reassignment surgery Lili Elbe, he takes on a potentially subversive subject matter while remaining his mild, decorous self, delivering yet another earnestly told, splendidly visualized film that could please the masses but will likely electrify few.
Lili is born Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne), a celebrated landscape painter living in Copenhagen with his wife Gerda (Alicia Vikander), a less successful portraitist, in the 1920’s. The two are deeply in love, share common interests and lead a generally enviable life. A new self-awareness — or perhaps an old suspicion — is awaken, however, as Einar is made to cross-dress and pose for Gerda. Gradually, he starts putting on women’s clothes in private and one day — at Gerda’s suggestion — he makes his first public appearance as her female companion. Soon afterwards, both of them will realize this is not an impulse or a game, but a question of identity on which the happiness of the rest of their lives depends.
Our full Venice review of The Danish Girl.