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  Perfectly Normal Family, A My Two Mums
Year: 2020
Director: Malou Reymann
Stars: Mikkel Boe Folsgaard, Kaya Toft Loholt, Neel Ronholt, Rigmor Ranthe, Jessica Dinnage, Hadewych Minis, Kristian Halken, Rikke Bilde, Tammi Ost, Lado Hadzic, Peter Zandersen, Camilla Kold Krohn Gade, Shireen Rasoul Elahi Panah, Omar Abdel-Galil
Genre: Drama, BiopicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Emma (Kaya Toft Loholt) is a perfectly normal Danish ten-year-old girl who adores Britney Spears, and she has a love of football instilled in her by her father, Thomas (Mikkel Boe Folsgaard), so much so that she's a keen player at her local girls' club. But something not-so-normal, or regarded as such by wider society, is happening to her dad that she has no inkling of, though she gets the feeling something is wrong when they go to pick a pet puppy at a local sanctuary and Thomas suddenly takes ill, insisting he has to leave. Later, they have a treat of pizzas for dinner, but Emma is sulking because they didn't buy the puppy; however, she does not expect what her mother Helle (Neel Ronholt) announces at the meal table: divorce and a gender change for Thomas.

Or rather, Agnete as she now wishes to be known, in a story about a transgender woman from a perspective of her daughter, rather than the perspective of herself. It was an unusual move to make - even the much-maligned The Danish Girl had the title character as its protagonist - but there was a very good reason for it, as the writer and director Malou Reymann had been through precisely this experience with her father a couple of decades before. Therefore an authenticity about Emma's reactions to this seismic shift in her life was present, since she was portraying exactly how Reymann had felt when she went through this herself, and though she loves her father, you could tell there remained some mixed feelings about what the realignment had done to her as a little girl.

What may be surprising in the times of the transgender narrative being argued over and thrashed out in both the mainstream and fringe media was that the director did not necessarily paint her relationship with her father in the most benevolent light. Although she fully admits now that her parent was going through a midlife crisis her young daughter could not grasp, Agnete does come across as incredibly self-centred and oblivious to anyone's emotions but her own, and she really does not handle her transition well in terms of how she treats her family. Emma's sister Caroline (Rigmore Ranthe), in contrast, is very supportive, and as an older teenager she will not have the problems of peer group acceptance that Emma is suffering, bringing about shame and a curious sense of grief, as if Thomas was dead, and she had to cope with a completely different person.

Although the tone was kept, if not comedic, then sympathetic to the little girl and her confusion, there was something troubling about A Perfectly Normal Family, and the impression was this was entirely intentional. It was willing you to imagine yourselves not in the shoes of Agnete, but of Emma or anyone who has someone close to them change gender, and there are moments when Emma is actually frightened of her (the vaginal dilation scene is depicted as deeply unnerving to the child - not that it's graphic, one hastens to add), other moments when she gets furious at this adoption of a new personality that does not seem true to the dad she once knew (like when Agnete pretends to know nothing about football to impress a woman she befriends on holiday - a betrayal of all Emma holds dear!). But that could be a flaw, as well, as the father threatens to become a caricature and we never get to know why she decided on this massive upheaval for her peace of mind: you understand why her kids (and wife) felt rejected, certainly, but we never get inside Agnete's head to see why all this happened. Maybe the younger Malou didn't, either.

Aka: En helt almindelig familie
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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