Channel: Sky Drama/Romance


The story of the first person to undergo sex reassignment surgery.

English (British)

Main genres: Period drama

Also features: Elements of true story, contemporary social commentary

Brains: ♦♦♦♦ – The social lessons are sound enough

Originality: ♦♦♦♦ – It may be a passé subject to some of us, but I venture not nearly everyone

Heart: ♦♦♦♦ – Deadly serious but its sensitive sombreness is appropriate

Realism: ♦♦♦ – I doubt there wasn’t more controversy to be honest, even in Bohemia

Humour: ♦♦ – It can’t really be too funny but they did squeeze some everyday humour out of it

Energy: ♦♦ – If it feels like something heavy is upon you, that’s the subject matter

Setting: ♦♦♦♦ – Some pleasant period pieces and an artist’s loft

Scary: No

Grim: In theory – you’re talking about a serious, dangerous operation here

Violent: No

Fantastical: No

Feel-Good: No

Inspirational: Well… It’s hardly a “follow your dreams!” type

Lovey-dovey: At the start maybe, but:


A young artist in Denmark discovers that she is not a man after all, but a transwoman. Through the course of self-exploration with her wife, also an artist, she begins a double life as Lily which threatens her marriage and social standing in an era where such things were practically unheard of.

This is a quiet, slightly intense, difficult and uncomfortable movie, but it is also sensitive; it sticks to the canon of transgender testimony, examines the difficulties of the time period and avoids sensationalism or hyperbole. It is, suitably enough, greyish blue and understated as a Scandinavian TV drama, and highly unlikely to leave you warmed in the cockles of your heart.

Your humble reviewer just happens to be transgendered himself, so of course everyone he knows wants to hear what he thinks of this film – even though the trans person in question is “going the other way”, as it were.

There’s some concern that the film makers confused transvestism with transgenderism, after an apparent crossdressing scene. It’s worth pointing out that for transgender peopl, the clothes of the opposite sex have a powerful allure of self-discovery which is less to do with clothes and more to do with what they represent. So there’s nothing inaccurate there.

The other major concern is that the whole feature was too close to forced-feminisation fetish, i.e., that a man is forced into a female role by a dominant spouse and comes to like it. It’s true to say that Lily is a soft, mild person. This may give some people the mistaken impression that she is weak-willed and can be bullied and cowed into a form of existence she doesn’t want.

But trans people who undergo sex reassignment are by definition not weak-willed, or easily cowed; it is a decision that defies all convention. We should also be able to easily observe from the The Danish Girl that a transwoman for a husband was categorically not what Lily’s rather more assertive wife wanted.

We make a mistake when we decide that a soft-spoken, gentle person is weak, especially if they lean towards feminine characteristics. There are all sorts of ways to be strong. Lily took big risks for the sake of living up to what she felt to be her true identity, facing resistance, dismissal and shades of scorn on the way. She is no doormat; she’s firm and often angry when she needs to be, to get her point across. What more could you ask of the woman?