Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Ben Whishaw
Director: Tom Hooper
Running Time: 119 mins
The Danish Girl is a British film about the story of a man whose relationship with his wife changed dramatically over the period where he felt uncomfortable in his own body, and became a groundbreaking transgender pioneer.
This is an extremely disappointing film, simply because it had the potential to be something so impressive. It’s not a terrible movie, and the direction, production design and one of the lead performances are all great, but it really falls short of what it’s trying to accomplish time and time again: an emotionally powerful and engrossing story.
Before I get into that, let’s start on the bright side. The best part of this film, by a long way, is how it looks. With excellent attention to detail in the sets and costumes, it’s at least a really nice film to look at. Meanwhile, Tom Hooper’s direction is at its best since The Damned United.
One thing that he does extremely well is bring the camera in really close to the actors’ faces to give a clearer image of their emotions, and as such make a scene more emotionally powerful. Whilst it’s arguable that he did this to an excessive extent in The King’s Speech and Les Misérables, it’s not overdone in The Danish Girl, and it does help to bring a little bit more emotion to the table when the story completely lacks it (I’ll get onto that in a moment).
Now, the performances. Eddie Redmayne is the one that everyone is talking about for this film, but I didn’t think he was all that great. It’s not a bad performance, but I really felt he went a bit over-the-top with all of the facial tics and extreme wide-eyedness of his character, which really got on my nerves as the film went on, and consequently lessened my emotional connection to his character significantly.
In fact, Redmayne is completely outshone in The Danish Girl by his co-star, Alicia Vikander, who plays his wife; she is excellent. Her performance is hugely calm throughout, and because of that, I felt so much more able to empathise with and care for her character, and so the majority of the emotional impact of this film came from her, and not the main character who we’re meant to really connect with.
Now, let’s talk about what makes this film such a disappointment: its extreme lack of emotional power. As the film went on, I could tell that this was really trying hard to be a proper tearjerker, and why not? It’s the story of a man who begins to question everything about himself, and begins to turn his and his wife’s life completely upside down.
However, it really doesn’t work. As I said, Hooper’s direction and Vikander’s performance lend some degree of emotion to the film, but it still isn’t impacting enough.
I think the major reason for this is that the film attempts to do too much too quickly. Surprisingly, this isn’t that slow-moving a film, but that’s unfortunately to its detriment. The whole first act is all about this man suffering extreme confusion as he begins to question who he is, and whilst that should be the focus of the whole film, it feels rushed and therefore shallow.
Meanwhile, there are at least eleven ‘moments’ where something really big and influential happens in the characters’ lives. Now, a few of these are fine, but when there are so may apparently integral moments, most of which come way before the finale, they really lose their power, and that’s the main reason why this film ultimately just doesn’t work.
I don’t want to completely hate on The Danish Girl, because it’s not an awful film, and its visuals and Vikander’s performance are undoubtedly excellent. However, there was such huge potential for an emotional rollercoaster of a story here, yet it completely failed to deliver, and that’s what’s most disappointing, so that’s why I’ll give The Danish Girl a 5.8.