Director – Malou Reymann – 2020 – Denmark – Cert. PG – 97m
This opens, closes and is punctuated at regular intervals with 4:3 aspect ratio home movie footage of a family, two sisters growing up and precious moments with their mum and, particularly, their dad (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard). The first excerpt sees dad carrying baby Emma, showing her to the camera and herself in a mirror, showing her her mum Helle (Neel Rønholt) in bed and her elder sister Caroline / Caro in her cot, then taking her downstairs to watch the football match on TV with dad. “Are you a little football girl?”, he asks her.
The rest of the film is in 16:9 widescreen, starting off with teenage Emma (Kaya Toft Loholt) and the rest of her football team being told off by their coach. On the sidelines, dad dribbles the ball. She comes over and tackles him effortlessly. Later, when the family go to look at a dog because both girls want the family to have one, it becomes clear that something is up with their parents.
Specifically, dad has decided that he’s living a lie and needs to become a woman, changing his name from Thomas to Agnete. He’s clearly thought long and hard abut this and it has been coming for some time. His wife Helle is less than sympathetic and will divorce him.
Director Reyman is less interested in what happens to the mother than she is in what happens to the two kids. Caroline (Rigmor Ranthe) seems a well adjusted young woman with considerable sympathy for her dad’s plight, and seems to mostly take the situation pretty well. Emma, however, is a different matter.
At a family group therapy meeting, rather than face her dad who she’s not seen for some months, she wraps a scarf around her head so she can’t see anything. Through judicious use of camera angles, this first scene in which Agnete rather than the former Thomas appears he is hidden from the audience until Emma eventually removes the scarf and sees him. This scene is a highly effective piece of storytelling.
If nothing else in the film has quite the same resonance, Reymann understands her characters and the tale holds the attention throughout, the inserted home movies device contrasting the ‘normal’ family of male dad, female mum and two kids with the later, much more complex and difficult situation in which the family find themselves.
This probably isn’t the place to go if you want to understand transgender people themselves, but in terms of how their nearest and dearest relate to and deal with them (or not), it’s pretty compelling.