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The Danish Girl movie review: All change for Eddie Redmayne

Published 01/01/2016

It has been a momentous 12 months for the transgender community, which has advanced the fight for acceptance, equality and understanding into popular culture and the mainstream media.

Barack Obama became the first President to mention transgender people in his State Of The Union address, America confirmed a timetable for transgender soldiers to serve openly in the military, reality star Caitlyn Jenner graced the cover of Vanity Fair and award-winning TV shows Transparent and Orange Is The New Black blazed a trail for modern trans activism.

The Danish Girl is a fictionalised account of Lili Elbe, a pioneer of the movement, who was one of the first people to undergo gender reassignment surgery in the Twenties.

Director Tom Hooper, who collected an Academy Award for The King's Speech, adopts a restrained and painfully polite approach to the subject matter, artfully navigating a maelstrom of conflicting emotions.

Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) is a respected artist in Twenties Copenhagen, who falls in love at first sight with his bohemian wife Gerda (Alicia Vikander).

She is also a painter and asks Einar to stand in for an absent female model so she can complete a portrait of their flamboyant ballerina friend, Ulla (Amber Heard).

The touch of soft fabric on Einar's skin awakens long-dormant feelings. Adopting the guise of flame-haired ingenue Lili Elbe, Einar confronts the deep-rooted belief that he has been born into the wrong body.

The Danish Girl treads an exceedingly safe path,but it's hard to resist the aching emotion that courses beneath each exquisite, painterly frame.

Redmayne and Vikander are mesmerising, conveying their protagonists' inner torment with each trembling touch or tearstained glance.

Both deserve Oscar recognition.

Four stars

Belfast Telegraph

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