Einar is a very successful landscape painter. He lives with his wife Gerda, also a painter, but not as successful yet. Living in Copenhagen, they live a bohemian and carefree life. An innocent game starts when Gerda asks Einar to pose as a girl for her and then join her as a woman to one of the artists ball as Lili. Initially Einar is able to keep Lili as his alter ego and both hubsanad-wife are having fun but we soon realise that the problem could be seeded much deeper. When Gerda starts painting Lily in her feminine state, she starts getting very popular and gets serious attention from art dealers. When it becomes hard for Einar to continue to live a double life in Copenhagen, they move to Paris. Gera tracks down Einar’s friend form childhood Hans. He still cares for Einard and Lili and Gerda and wants to be continuously supportive of them. As her struggles with her identity and continued existence as Einar become too much for Lili, she starts to seek help from psychologists but no results. On Hans’ insistence, they finally meet Dr. Kurt. He is the first person who says that he understands exactly what the problem is with Einar and proposes a new, innovative and controversial solution: male to female sex reassignment surgery. Lili agrees to this very dangerous operation, which has never been attempted before. Her eagerness to become woman is so much that she rushes for the second round of surgery sooner than she should have leading to complications and eventual death. Te film is based on the memoirs written by Lili between her surgeries.
The most interesting parts for me are where the innocent game between a very loving husband and wife soon become dangerous. lili slowly becomes very much a part of Einar’s life; so much that he can’t separate the two. This is where Gerda’s help and support becomes very critical. As a wife and a friend, she has always been there for her husband and she wants to continue to be there for her. The film is rich in emotions and presentation. It feels like a painting on canvas. Anything that you say performances would be less. Both lead actors are simply wonderful in their respective roles. What makes Redmayne's performance so exceptional is the way he captures both Lili's terror and her stubborn bravery. His study of a certain stylised female body language, with every tilt of his head and turn of his ankle. But Its Gerda, who IMO steals the show. Its hard to explain, but you have to watch her. She is brilliant. Having said all that, somehow something is missing in the film. I was very hooked on and interested in the on-goings for first half, but after a while, I started to feel that things were being dread and slow. Also, the film just stays n the very surface. It really doesn’t dive too deep into either of the character’s emotional state. Agreed that the story is far too complex but as an audience I would have appreciated it.
The film is pretty with rock solid performances but I wish it could have used a more probing, maybe even more painful, palette knife. (7/10)